Recurring Tasks and Achievement

GearsTime seemingly progresses in different rates. Five minutes should be five minutes, but when you are watching your favorite show that’s broken up by commercials one might wonder why they didn’t call it the commercial hour. But well, that’s another issue. Ten minutes at the dentist are for sure much longer than ten minutes at your favorite Italian Restaurant.

It also seems that as we get older weeks, months and even years change the rate in which they are passing.
“That wasn’t last month? That was last year? Oh #@&*”. One convincing theory I once heard was that for children almost every experience they make is new for them and so their brains have to process a lot of new information, but as we get older our brains have to deal with less and less new. As the stretches of days get longer that are bookmarked by new events we feel that time is going by faster and faster. How can we change that?

You can force yourself to watch a chess tournament on ESPN or whack yourself with a hammer on your thumb to stretch time for a short instant or you can try to make sure you do a lot of new stuff all the time.

When we look at the things we do everyday we likely notice that there is a lot of the same. Most jobs require us to do the same tasks over and over again and when we get home it doesn’t get any better. Laundry on Tuesdays, groceries on Fridays, soccer training Mondays and Thursdays, fixing dinner, answering mail, etc.
We do the same day by day, week by week. Years with a vacation spent in Jamaica, become Do-you-know-that-was-the-year-we-went-to-Jamaica-years, because there was not much else during such years that was different.

One way to break out is to start new projects. Like learning a new language, starting a blog, writing a book, or similar. But then again, all these soon have their own recurring tasks attached to them. Research for a post on Monday, write it on Tuesday. Language classes every Wednesday, vocabulary recitation on Sundays. Write 500 words each day for the first book draft. And again, soon all these become new chores that don’t add much novelty anymore.

Sure, it is exhilarating to get feedback about your language skills in your next vacation or to have your book completed, but the timescales involved are often too big to warrant for a daily feeling of achievement.

One way to change that is to work in micro-sprints and separate non-achieving chores with recurring tasks that will eventually lead to achievements.

Non-achieving chores are your laundry, groceries, doing dishes, book-keeping, most of your email correspondence, and similar tasks that are just part of life, but don’t yield any personal advancement. If possible you can try to make them as convenient as possible, e.g. by listening to music or audiobooks while dusting your rooms or try to do them less often, e.g. by buying groceries in bulk once a month. You can use programs like PhraseExander to shortcut sentences and phrases you write often in your emails. Overall, however, there is no way around them. You likely won’t remember the month when you ruled at operating the vacuum cleaner.

But you may remember the month when you got the certificate you learned so hard for or when you spent the entire weekend to finish your book. So projects for which you had to spent more time than usually on completing them. I’ve planned to work 20 minutes per week on my personal Website, but then after months I realized with the current rate, it will me take another couple of months before I am done, which was pretty discouraging. So, I decided to stay up as many nights as needed to complete the site to a point that I feel okay to publish it. I still want to add details, but just finally publishing it is such a great boost, that it energizes me for other projects. Even more that that, now that this is done I can finally think about starting something else.

You can often pack recurring tasks that will eventually lead to some kind of achievement into a micro-sprint, that means you dedicate a couple of hours (as many as possible) in a short period of time (a week) until you reach a significant milestone that marks a clear achievement for you.

Forming habits is a great method for all the tasks you have to keep at to make sense, like working out, flossing your teeth, learning a language, etc.
However, completing these micro-sprints may give you the needed energy and feeling of relief from the ordinary that makes your daily life (the time between your trips or skydiving adventures) worthwhile enough to stay excited for tomorrow.
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This is Quick Tip No 40

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