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About Time - Part II

Projects, Time Management3 min read


Now, should I play Diablo or Dota first?

You got all your goals written down. Now you just have to achieve them. Easy, you say? You’ve got everything figured out? Not so fast!

As discussed in the previous post, our world can be highly unpredictable. So, your schedule might be unfit for the uncertainty lying ahead. Even if it is, it might take too much time to make or be too vague. Imagine yourself writing down:

At 2 pm - go to the dentist office. If the dentist cancels my appointment go to the grocery store and buy bananas. If the car breaks down along the way…

Huh, that can’t be good. Overthinking, right? One way out of this would be to create an initial schedule and change it as you need to. However, you don’t imagine yourself editing every single overlap or worse, rescheduling half of your day?

More importantly, can you rely on yourself to be at 100% every time you need to make a change to your schedule? Personally, I’ve caught myself of overpromising seeing someone only to disappoint later on. Who wants to do that?

Outsourcing (most of) the scheduling

Back to the matter at hand: what is the perfect daily schedule? The truth is I don’t know. I believe nobody does. However, can we make a really good one?

Two opposing forces seems to play an important role here. Is the schedule doable? Does the schedule maximize the completion of your goals?

Imagine two minions sitting on your shoulders. One on the left, another on the right one. The three of you are looking at your daily schedule. The one on the right is the optimist. And on your left is the pessimist. Your job is to balance their opinion and choose the best possible schedule.

The optimist is trying to fit everything into your daily schedule, while taking some constraints in mind:

  • you can’t give a presentation and workout at the gym at the same time
  • there should be time between writing new post and visiting the gym
  • some breaks between the tasks might be good for you

The other minion has to tell only one thing - what percentage of a given schedule will be complete by the end of the day? The tricky part is that not all tasks are created equal. Each task must have an assigned number that represents its importance. This way, you can immediately tell if doing one task is more important than another at a specified time. How to compute the importance of a given task?

How important is this task, really?

This one appears to be infinitely complex, at least to me. We need to restrain the beast with constraints. Small bits of randomness and user input can help a lot. If a task is going to help you achieve some goal - by all means, it is important! If a task is marked as important by the user - it is important! Are we done here? Not yet!

Let’s say that it is important to create the cake for your mom’s birthday party. Shopping at the grocery store might not seem as or more important at first. Still, you need all the sugary stuff to make that cake. The priority of buying groceries just went high. More importantly, you have to do that one first.

But we will have to make some simplifications at first. The example above is quite common. Still, we will let the user handle that one, initially.

How to choose your schedule

Let the minions help you! Ask the optimist to create one for you, then give it to the pessimist. If the schedule has good enough chance of being completed by you, go for it! Have a perfectly scheduled day!

What, it wasn’t good enough? Tell the score to the optimist and ask him to generate another one for you. Repeat until total happiness is achieved!

Improving thyself

Now now, a schedule that doesn’t push you a bit isn’t something you want, right? Let’s take some random slacker as an example. You can tell that guy to work out hard 5 times a week, read a book for at least an hour every day and write 100 pages of his book every weekend. Do you expect him to do it? Well, I do! After a period of adjustment, he might get there. But he has to start small.

That’s why the pessimist is going to be initially really pessimistic about your expected performance (unless told otherwise, of course). And that will change, every week or so, pushing you a bit more or less, depending on your performance.


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