Take three concepts.
1) The 80/20 Law: 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs, or the reverse.
2) Parkinson’s law: “a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for it’s completion.”
3) Minimum effective dose: the smallest dose that gets the required effect.
Now ask yourself three questions:
A) What are the most important things I need to accomplish every day?
B) What if I only had a small amount of time to do them in?
C) What is the smallest amount that I can do that will still yield significant results?
Combine the answers and what do you get?
A daily standard.
Mine is the following: Med / 2R / Wr / Tr / Pl
Which means that if I meditate, read for an hour or two, write, exercise and have some fun, that day is a victory. No matter what happens, if I still manage to hit the daily standard, I’ve made some forward progress.
The main benefit of having an explicitly defined standard is that it holds me accountable every day. It gives me something to shoot for.
But a benefit I’ve only noticed in the last few days is this: when I’m floundering, I can turn to the standard and see what is being neglected. It helps me to figure out what’s going wrong and how I can fix it.
For the last few weeks I’ve struggled. My energy has been low. I’ve been impatient, restless, frustrated, angry. And I haven’t been able to figure out why.
So last night, I wrote out my daily standard and asked myself, “what am I neglecting?”
The underlined sections are what I’m missing.
Med / 2R / Wr / Tr / Pl
Not too much.
Med: I usually meditate in the morning. But I haven’t been doing that for the last few weeks. I’ve been getting up later, which has made me feel like I haven’t got the time to be still and breathe, because I need to get to work and write.
On those mornings, I’ve promised myself I’ll meditate in the afternoon or evening, and I always skip it.
2R: I haven’t been able to sit and read. I get through a chapter, sometimes not even that much, and then I’m on my phone, checking email, procrastinating, getting something to eat, making a coffee.
I’ve found it difficult to just sit and read like I used to, for hours at a time.
Tr: My health and exercising has become a secondary concern. Sometimes, that’s okay, on the odd day or the weeks where you really are stretched. But I haven’t been. I’ve just been lazy.
Pl: I haven’t been switching off. My usual outlets, like Brazilian jiu-jitsu or taking the dog out every day, or watching stand up have all fallen by the way side.
I’ve allowed myself to be constantly on, constantly pushing, constantly struggling.
Most of the problems we have are a consequence of good behaviours that we neglect. For the last few weeks, I’ve neglected the activities that I know are good for me and keep me in top form.
But I’m lucky, I have a daily standard to check myself against.
Yes, the daily standard holds me accountable, but perhaps it’s biggest benefit, which I’ve only now realised, is that when you fall below it, it’ll always be there to guide you on the climb back up.