Beautiful Systems: Back-up

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I said I’d do activity x at the computer for 25 minutes (1 pomodoro), but I ended up doing it for one hour. I did set a timer, but absorbed as I was in the activity, I turned it off and kept going.”

What was the failure-point?

“I told myself I’d focus on the process not the outcome, but I ended up focusing on the outcome again.”

“What was the outcome you were after?”

“Well, I didn’t set one.”

“When you don’t set a desired outcome, you haven’t clearly defined what the completed task looks like. Which means you’re relying on a vague default outcome. The problem is, at the end of the set time, the task may feel incomplete. You’re leaving a process open, which is likely to trigger an impulse to keep going.

Ideally, setting the intention to focus on the process not the outcome should be enough. But, as you realized, you can’t always rely on that.

You need a back-up plan.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking of a two-level back-up plan.

Back-up level 1:

Even if you’re intent on focusing on the process, set a minimum desired outcome, a ‘floor, to use Brian Johnson‘s terminology.

What’s the minimum you need to do for the task to be considered complete?

But let’s say the level 1 back-up fails. The task does feel complete, but you still feel the impulse to keep going. That’s where the level 2 back-up comes in.

Back-up level 2:

Having the timer nearby makes it easy to turn it off on a whim and remain glued to the computer. You need to make it more difficult.

As a strategy, place the timer some distance away from you, so that you need to physically move in order to reach it.

This has double benefit: you’re forcing yourself to move, and you’re delaying the action, giving you time to reevaluate.”

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About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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