It's particularly challenging with tasks that require intense bursts of time and energy. Coding, writing, inteking strange new behaviors and worldviews. These are things that require intense focus, energy, and enthusiasm and just the right mental state. That can be very hard to maintain, and in fact, is often not even beneficial to maintain in other areas of your life that you have a higher degree of mastery and require less arousal to reach your optimal performance. So I think it's natural to fall into and out of this "high-energy" mode, which many of us associate with exponential productivity.
But there are some easy traps to fall into here.
One of the biggest is ignoring the skill of putting yourself in this mode at will. There is not actually a magic genie in your walls. You need to be able to say, tomorrow morning I have time to write, and I will write, and a part of that is getting yourself into "the zone." If you are failing to get yourself into "the zone," then you need to step back and work on that skill independently. Maybe that means re-awakening your original inspiration (thinking about all the people you will help with this book) or maybe it is preparing your vessel (low-fat, high fiber diet the day before, 6 hours of sleep, wake up, run, then get right to work... or whatever ritual ends up working). But these are factors that need to be evaluated.
I think another big one is denial. Thinking that you can maintain this state longer than you can, physio/psychologically or just within the constraints of the rest of your life. It's important to "pump yourself up" to the very high levels necessary to achieve your goals. It's also important to deal with the realities and interruptions and diversions of life as they come, then be able to return to that state.
Anyway, with regard to myself and my major goals, this week was largely a wash.
But, I made excellent progress in many other areas that are important to me. Was it the mind-shifting week last week was? Last week I approached the topic with single minded obsession. This week I approached a half dozen other things with quarter minded attention.
Is this appropriate? Yes, I think so. Certain tasks just benefit from single minded obsession. They suck the life out of everything else when they are center stage, and rarely is this ultimately the outcome you want. So an off-on cycle is quite necessary.
Currently, I'm on an off-cycle of exercise. I'm doing what I can to maintain my physical condition in my life. But I let its priority be bumped easily by other concerns. My absolute TOP priority this week was getting back on track with my project at work, another task that requires exclusive veto rights on anything else in my life, including staying in the office one night until 1130 because I was full of productive energy. Last week I would have gone out and inevitably met someone awesome, because that was getting my top time and energy. That one night of really good energy going into work makes an enormous difference in the week, and that "top priority veto spot" is really valuable.
Anyway, I think this is interesting and important, and I'd like to think more about how to track and manage this "veto" spot, so thanks for the chance to bounce the idea off of you.
Lightly edited excerpt from a conversation with Brendon: firstname.lastname@example.org - if you enjoyed it, feel free drop him a line to say so - he's incredibly sharp at coding, martial arts, philosophy, and being a damn good guy.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to email@example.com - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...
Dear Unhappy Former Self,
At lot has changed since we parted ways…
The basic differences are easy to point out. First and foremost, I am in a lot better shape than you. I am about 60 pounds lighter and a whole lot more agile and flexible. Whereas, you got winded after a 50 ft dash to answer the phone, I can now maintain a dead sprint for half a mile at sea level without losing my breath. It might seem hard to believe but I also heal faster than you. Injuries and bruises are gone sooner for me than they are for you. The world reacts in better ways to my presence than it does to yours. When people give me a double take, it is no longer to make sure I am not trying to sneak candy into a movie theater.
I also feel a whole lot better than you. I sleep less hours but feel more rested. I have more energy but eat less sugar. My mind feels sharper but I take no medications. I am better at doing mental math, remembering names and communicating my ideas. I have improved focus, stamina and discipline. You have cheap beer and even cheaper promises.