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« Random Time Management | Main | Optimize Process Driven Teams with Process Street »

A New Concept: Reducing Resistance by Randomness

… ok, perhaps not an entirely new concept. Some of you may have read the 1971 novel The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart and may even have experimented with deciding on your next action by the roll of a die. But I think very few people have ever made it into a systematic way of living their life.

With the help of the members of this website’s General Forum (see the threads Shades of the Diceman and Shades of the Diceman - Part 2) I have been trying out a new concept in time-management. Basically the idea is to use a normal task list but, instead of selecting the next task off the list yourself, you select it by using a random number generator.

Although it’s early days yet, what we have discovered is that the randomness has some very positive effects:

  • It takes out all the personal decisions which are hugely influenced by emotions, fear, laziness, habits and just general human fallibility - and instead presents the next thing to do without any attempt to justify it. Instead of spending time and energy deciding how urgent or important or pressing or scary or avoidable a task is, you just forget all that and accept a purely random decision.
  • What we are finding is that stress levels fall and resistance is reduced almost to zero. We seem to have taken the “friction” out of deciding what to do next.

It is however important to design a system which will channel the randomness so that it generates a productive result. In my next post, I will describe the system I am using at the moment. This has truly amazed me by how effective it is, how easy to work and how comprehensive.

Reader Comments (10)

Looking forward to the post!
January 20, 2014 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterAustin
Hi, I am super-curious to hear how you channel the randomness. I have been trying this method for three days now and have been very happy. What I do is rewrite a few things on the list everyday, things that have deadlines, are on my team kanban, or are important projects, to game the system a little bit. I like this because every day that one of these items do not get selected, I add it again, increasing the probability each day.

I have also experimented with adding a post it note to the fron to f the list which contains all the things that I identify for today (MITS, due todays) and start the randomness with this list first before moving on the bigger list.

Looking forward (as always) to hearing your take.
January 21, 2014 at 0:51 | Unregistered CommenterVegheadjones

Just as soon as the randomizer comes up with "Write the blog post"!
January 21, 2014 at 1:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It might be interesting to combine this with a separate focus list...
January 21, 2014 at 15:39 | Registered CommenterDeven
Also using cards with one task on each could work. Just shuffle the card. Do task on the top card, move it to the bottom, do second card...occasionally shuffle again.
January 21, 2014 at 20:02 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb
Not only am I interesting in trying out variations of this technique, I started reading that book cause it's sounded really interesting, lol.
January 21, 2014 at 23:41 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel T

Could be a problem if you have 90 or so tasks, like I have!
January 22, 2014 at 13:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
the ancient Athenians selected their rulers by lot. here is a recent discussion on this issue by Nassim Taleb:
July 4, 2014 at 18:48 | Unregistered Commenterteckwyn

Would I be right in thinking that the Athenians might choose their rulers randomly, but it would be from a pretty small segment of the population? No slaves, atheists, criminals or non-citizens of Athens. Probably a property qualification and military service as well. So whoever the lot came up with, he (and I mean he - no women) would be bound to be "the right sort".

P.S. Having since done a little research, I find it was even more restricted than that. The rulers were selected by lot from the existing members of the city committees, who had been elected in the normal way by the small segment of the population I described above.
July 4, 2014 at 19:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Sounds cool.

I think a good time management system has two parts.

One structure. Two something to lessen resistance and thus, procrastination.

This system clearly addresses the second part. I'll definitely give it a try.

There's one question, though. What to do with deadlines?

Maybe I have a idea. Let's say you have 4 major tasks to complete this month. Instead of giving them all a different deadline you give them all the same one: the last day of the month. Then you just spend the whole month playing dice. :-)

All in all, I think that in order to make this system work you need a very well structured and often updated todo-list. Do you put the high level task of "write my book" on the todolist or rather smaller tasks like "outline first chapter"?

Any ideas on this?
July 18, 2014 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterNigel33

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