I’ve always had some long term project or activity that I like to spend time on every day. A book, playing a musical instrument, exercising, or going for a walk. Anything where I’ve told myself “I should start doing xyz”. Even when I start, it peters out. I think most of you reading this can empathize. It’s happened to me not just once, but several times. A couple of months ago, I hit upon a promising technique. After trying it, I finally seem to have found the magic formula!
I’m fundamentally a very lazy person. Always have been and nothing’s going to change that. Whatever plan I make has to work around this limitation. I’ve started projects only to give them up because they required too much effort. So I told myself, “Just do this for five minutes everyday”. It doesn’t have to be some grand effort. Doesn’t need great planning and resolution. Five minutes is nothing. The project I was working on was programming for Android. I’d started once before and given up. I wanted to get going again. So I began with the intention of doing just a few paragraphs of my book everyday. It worked great.
For one thing, I like coding. So when I get started I inevitably ended up doing a lot more that just a few paragraphs. There were a few days when I felt “meh”, don’t feel like it. But doing a few paragraphs isn’t that hard to make up your mind to do. Five minutes at the most. This constant pegging away in small quantities finally culminated in my app that updates your net worth based on your current Indian mutual fund investments in the Google Play store!
Another example is blogging. I’d like to work just a little bit on my blog every day. Whether it is researching the idea for a post, or just writing a paragraph, I want to do something. It so happens that when I start, I continue for a goodish bit. It’s the starting that’s the problem. That’s where the calendar comes in.
Following this tip from Lifehacker, I sought out a yearly calendar where the entire year was printed on one side. To my great joy, Anupa bought one for me as a birthday present when she found out. So I hung it up where my dartboard used to be, and for each day that I did some work on my blog, I made a mark on my calendar. Once I got a few days in, it looks like the picture shown here. I’ve got nice rows of crosses filling up the spaces and I just hate to break the continuity.Every time I feel I’d rather not do what I’m doing, I look at my unbroken cross streak and say “Damn, what a waste if I stop now…”. And that my friends, is the secret of my long term project work :)
I have to be careful though that I don’t take on too much. Right now my list of “to do” stuff includes my blog, meditation and coding. I don’t want to strain myself because past experience tells me that I hate to be bogged down. I don’t maintain calendars anymore for meditation and coding because they’ve truly become habits and I don’t need any more reminding or prodding.
Pretty cool huh?