This is one way you could live your life. I'm not about to recommend it across the board, but it works alright for me.
The Basic Tenets
Before we start, some common sense boundaries for the strictures of the schema. These tenets take precedent over any rule conflicting with them:
Be well — Physical and mental health are both necessary to maintain the focus, mood, and energy levels required for good work. There is always time to bring your physiology back into alignment.
Stay in touch — Other people provide the context, reason, and spark for most ideas (to say nothing of collaboration, support, and good times). There is always time to strengthen relationships.
Keep the roof up — If the bills don’t get paid and the leaks don’t get fixed, everything else gets fucked up. This one’s not quite as ironclad as the first two, but resolving small issues before they snowball is almost always the right move.
Write — Explaining or narrating things in words is a reliable force multiplier. It sharpens rhetoric and reasoning; it uncovers things hiding in plain sight; it creates a record for future reference; it’s immensely satisfying to stumble into saying what you actually mean. There is always time to step back.
Work in this schema lives in one of three abstract spaces: the Shelf, the Table, and the Book. When an idea with some promise crosses your mind, it goes to the Shelf. When that idea is ready to be worked on, it goes to the Table. When the idea has been fulfilled or exhausted, it goes into the Book.
To move an idea from the Shelf to the Table, it needs to be stated as a goal. A goal is a measurable, completeable objective with the following details worked out:
- 1 to 3 underlying motivations--interpersonal, systemic, experiential, incremental.
- A map leading backward from the goal to a first step. This map need not be sworn to as law, but if you can’t find a logical starting point of action the goal needs more work.
- A resource allocation in time, money, and energy.
As an example, I have 9 goals at the moment, and I’m cataloguing them in Evernote (I don't know that I can recommend Evernote across the board, but it has sufficed for now). They are:
- Have an opinion of the October Surprise.
- Earn a stripe in BJJ.
- Host a good panel at FWA.
- Weigh 180 pounds.
- Hit a golf ball where you want it to go 80% of the time.
- Publish The Table v2.
From when you wake up until 4pm:
- All time is spent at the Table.
- All funds are spent at the Table.
- No goal goes more than two days without at least 30 minutes of productive attention.
- No more than 400 calories, all of which must come from ketogenic sources (oils, nuts, vegetables).
The only exceptions to the above are a once-a-week Break Day (probably just going to be Saturday but could be moved around to accommodate) and when these rules conflict with the Basic Tenets.
I can circumvent Rule 3 by removing a goal from the Table before two days of inactivity pass. To remove a goal from the Table before completing it, I have to justify the failure as a problem with either the feasibility of the goal or the motivations underlying the goal, then move the goal to the Book. Goals placed in the book cannot be revisited for at least a month.
Morning rituals will eat into work time to get you physically calibrated for the day, and that's fine: that's all about Being Well. Most people aren't ready to go straight off the mattress and it pays to have a routine in place. My morning ritual looks something like this (mostly lifted from the 2-hour Bag and Chips scheme):
- Wim Hof! - There's a psychotic Dutchman by the name of Wim Hof who climbs mountains in his underwear. I'm not sure that's the sport for me, but his breathing technique is pretty good for getting out of bed. Many nuances notwithstanding, the meat of it is short and forceful breathing in and out. It kills grogginess dead after about 15 reps.
- Get your body out of stasis - You can sweat, but don't hurt yourself. The key is to get the fluids inside you moving, not to burn through your resting energy supply or dislocate a rib (as I did not too long ago playing MMA guy). Activities involving bouncing (jogging, rolling, literally jumping up and down) tend to work very well for this.
- Contrast shower - Alternate between warm and cold at intervals. This wakes you up, improves your mood, suppresses hunger, et cetera. Trust me: this one does a tremendous amount of good for how little it requires of you besides the nerve to turn the temperature down.
- Quarter-cream mug of coffee - This flavor has become basic to me. It's a grounding sensation.
- Passing thoughts - Jot down anything on your mind. Anything. This isn't getting published anywhere. Silly privations are ideal. Put any good ideas on the Shelf for further exploration. Don't spend more than 15 minutes on it.
- Meditate - Meditation is any activity that breaks the stream of thoughts ordinarily cluttering your head for a sustained period. Resources abound for how to do this but the general idea is to give the present moment your full attention. Beverage sipping is acceptable, but if you're going to drink make sure the action and sensation have your full attention when you do it. I personally find 10 minutes to be sufficient.
- Regulatory song - Bridge the gap between where your mood is and where you want it to be with a song of appropriate tempo. I have been gradually building out Spotify playlists for this which I'll publish at some point when I feel like it.
From 4pm to 6pm: take stock, revise, and unwind. Here are some ways to do that:
- Blow-by-blow journal
- List what you did today, how it went, and how it could have gone better, all as succinctly as you can. Use this time to assess your current slate of goals. Don't spend time working toward ends you don't want, and give things that are still exciting you at the end of the work day a shot.
- Any amorphous activity you prefer (drawing, walking, lying facedown in a pile of laundry). Right on the heels of a load of serious work, unwinding in an unstructured way is therapeutic and also a good conduit for new ideas while a critical mass of thoughts is swirling around (write them down). Do what you can to keep explicit sexual content out of the thought bubble: it tends to crowd out the other meeker thoughts this exercise is designed to expose (might just be me?).
- Doesn't have to be a book but, if it's going to be internet content, pick longform content. Read a chapter's worth of a comic rather than bouncing between a bunch of different comics. Scan down rather than across, and you'll more than make up the difference in recency with depth. If you find that this makes your social life more taxing because you're behind by a week, please re-assess your entire life before it's too late.
- Talk to somebody
- Pick someone and engage them in conversation. Doesn't have to be in person; doesn't have to be a deep discussion. Just keep in touch.
- In case you were wondering when this was supposed to happen. The human body isn't built to have undigested food inside it 24 hours a day. If you limit stuffing your face to the evening hours, your body can spend the daylight hours in relative peace and quiet performing maintenance routines and you can essentially gorge yourself from now until you go to bed without running a (serious) risk of getting fat because there's simply not enough time for you to get a problematic number of calories and carcinogens in your body. Feel free to mix "Eat" with "Talk to somebody" and even "Read" if you're feeling ambitious.
Whatever you do, keep it low tempo. If you don't already have something planned for the evening, figure that out now so you don't just fuck around until 3 in the morning.
From 6pm to an hour before bed, do as you please. By this point in the day, you've journaled, meditated, made progress on several relevant goals, completed a bunch of things you needed to get done, read something remembering, and made social contact with another human being. By any sane definition, you've lived a full day.
Nonetheless, even though you're free to pick anything, pick *something*! If you head into the realm of debauch and prurience with some idea of what you want to achieve along the way, you stand a much better chance of ending the night having enjoyed yourself instead of oscillating between a handful of half-assed activities.
Time to wrap things up. No more electronics, food, or Jack Daniels. For the next hour, you have two objectives:
- Tidy up
- Get your living space ready for lights out. Mail, dishes, clothes, locks, trash, dust, hair, nails, teeth...the little stuff that's quick to keep in order. Limit to 20 minutes. You aren't hosting an open house: you're just taking care of all the things that'll bug you tomorrow morning when you should be concentrating on the day ahead.
- Find a book; write a journal entry; stroll around outside for a bit; seduce a boyfriend/girlfriend/flexible acquaintance into snuggling (or just have sex with them, I'm not your mom). The goal is to more-or-less accidentally end up in the next stage and whenever that happens it happens.
You are now asleep, preferably for 7 to 8 hours.
I will send text messages to Matt between 6 and 8am reporting on the previous day. It's a two-symbol message using the following key:
1+ Conditions met, great day.
0+ Conditions not met, but still great day.
1= Conditions met, good day.
0= Conditions not met, but still good day.
1- Conditions met, but still poor day.
0- Conditions not met, poor day.
"Conditions" are specific to the period from waking to 4pm. The rest of it is a bit wishy-washy for pass-fail criteria, however the second symbol accounts for the whole thing. Matt has 100 American bucks of mine in Paypal escrow as of 2017-02-05. Every time I report a 0 (or fail to report), he gets 10 of those bucks to spend by the end of the month on something entirely unworthy of capital expenditure (we have a similar arrangement in the other direction as well using his own criteria). If I fail more than 10 times this month...we haven't figured something out but that would be pretty terrible.