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« The Biggest Problems in Time Management - Intro | Main | When You Feel You are Getting Nowhere... »
Sunday
Sep162018

Building Up Routines

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that the reason that our intuition usually goes for the easiest tasks first is in order to build up routines on which the more difficult tasks can ride.

But why are some tasks easy while others are not? The usual reason is that an easy task is one we do often and therefore can do it without much effort or thought.

In other words it is a routine or part of a routine.

The ultimate aim is to make all our work routine. This may sound a bit boring - after all who wants to be trapped in a routine job?

Those of you who have read my book “Secrets of Productive People” will know that I gave three examples of productive people at the start of the book. These were Galileo, van Gogh and Ford. I showed how these three examples of extreme productivity were so precisely because they routinized productivity.

it’s very similar to the way that a musician builds one level of skill on top of another. Or someone learning a language becomes more and more fluent in the language the more they routinize the basic grammar and vocabulary, or how an athelete practises at higher and higher levels.

So to reiterate, that’s why the easy tasks get done first.

Reader Comments (13)

I found your recent statement helpful. Essentially:

Everything Is Equally Easy. Mentally approach a task “little and often. The old saying is,
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. What the saying omits is that
a journey of two hundred yards also starts with a single step. You just start.

This mode of thinking makes hard tasks easier. So then, to what extent do routine tasks still take precedence in this context?
September 16, 2018 at 22:47 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< This mode of thinking makes hard tasks easier. So then, to what extent do routine tasks still take precedence in this context? >>

Walking a thousand miles is not an easy task. In fact it is an extremely difficult and probably (in those days) dangerous task, which takes a lot more skills than just being able to take one step after another.

What I said is that it is not the objective difficulty of the task that I'm talking about, but the mental readiness to undertake the task.

To walk a thousand miles you need to have routinized a huge number of tasks and procedures of which taking steps is just one example. But nothing can happen until you take that first step.
September 17, 2018 at 0:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This post is inspiring. I've heard taking one step etc loads of times before, but I think it is more than that. Actually getting your mind into a state in the first place of being able to tackle any task without any sort of "not now" is liberating.
I always wondered why some tasks seem easy and some not, and for me it is the routine bit that was the light bulb moment. As soon as any task is built into a routine it becomes easy after time. Of course - how simple!
It is working so far...
September 17, 2018 at 11:47 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
But doesn't all this mean that the Long List can be a vicious cycle for bad habits?

What if a person wants to get out of his habits of wasting time with trivial pursuits and do more productive tasks, and yet everytime he uses a Long List his intuition keeps on "standing out" the usual pleasurable time wasters that he habitually does?
October 2, 2018 at 14:42 | Unregistered Commenternuntym
I just realized that it the above scenario may be even worse for No Listers. At least in Long Lists you can opt to remove such time wasters from them, while for No Listers such tasks can be predominantly in their minds, and, as was discussed recently in a thread:

<<avrum:

<< what would you do if the first task is always pleasure-seeking, low-hanging fruit type of tasks? >>

I'd say "Go for it!" >>

http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2721471#item2721572
October 2, 2018 at 16:19 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

<< What if a person wants to get out of his habits of wasting time with trivial pursuits and do more productive tasks, and yet everytime he uses a Long List his intuition keeps on "standing out" the usual pleasurable time wasters that he habitually does? >>

As I said recently intuition is not some magic voice from above telling you what to do. And I'll add that it's not some magic voice from below telling you what to do either. It's your intuition. You tell it what you want to do. The fire chief acts from his intuition because he has chosen to be a fire chief with all that that entails. Ditto the fighter pilot. If you want to get out of bad habits then tell your intuition (i.e. yourself) to get you out of bad habits. And to do that you'll have to start small and build up.
October 3, 2018 at 13:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wonder if a Gestalt chair exercise would work? (ie talk to your intuition,personified, in the empty chair, then swap places).

Plenty of web sites claim to have intuition-building exercises.
October 4, 2018 at 17:31 | Unregistered Commentermichael
By swap places, you mean your intuition stands up, you sit down and your intuition talks to you? I don't get that bit.
October 4, 2018 at 18:48 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I suppose a Fire Chief could take a chair with him on the back of his fire truck... but a fighter pilot?
October 4, 2018 at 20:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Alan: Yes. Exactly.
October 5, 2018 at 10:59 | Unregistered Commentermichael
Not exactly. I cannot imagine what I wrote. It doesn't make any sense to me.
October 5, 2018 at 17:25 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Is it that much different than dialoging with your future self, as MF recommends in Dreams?
October 5, 2018 at 22:32 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
Same principle I suppose. The results may differ according to intention I suppose. In general one is trying to generate a new perspective. The unknown unknowns.
October 6, 2018 at 17:10 | Unregistered Commentermichael

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