From Sunday, 3/10/19 to today, Tuesday 5/21/19, I’ve been working on improving. During that time, I decided on a single, small improvement to make each week, and I tried to execute on it. Each week, I’d outline the motivation behind my decision, the tools I’d be using, and the rules I’d have to follow during the week. The next week, I’d write a short reflection on how I thought the week went with respect to my adherence to the rules I set.
During this time, I learned a significant amount about myself and the process of improvement, so I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned and some of my personal opinions on the topic. While reading, keep in mind that what I’m saying is based purely off my own experience and is likely not applicable to all who read this.
Making improvements small
I’ve made the mistake of trying to make large improvements many times. The danger with this is that you set expectations that you will almost certainly not be able to meet. The subsequent dropping of some of the expectations just weakens the others, and eventually, the whole system falls apart. The hard part is that the desire to make huge improvements often comes from the best place in the heart! Wanting to improve is an admirable thing, and wanting to radically improve yourself is even more admirable. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people, I just don’t think quick radical improvement is feasible.
Obviously, the solution here is to make your improvements small. For me, the easiest way to make my improvements small is to first make the rules for my improvement unambiguously specific. After the rules have been fully specified, I can easily see if what I’m doing is too much or not. I work on those rules for a week, and afterward, I reflect on whether or not they were too strenuous. Typically, I can tell that they were too strenuous simply if I was able to stick ot them or not.
Allowing rules to change
You’re never going to get your rules right the first time. In fact, they shouldn’t! That’s why you try out the rules in 1-week increments in the first place. The important thing is to track what rules are useful, which aren’t, and what rules you add/change throughout the week.
For example, in my week 1, I decided to track my time with an app called Clockify. The only problem is that Clockify didn’t help me at all. Timing myself on tasks made near no difference. However, halfway through the week, I found an app called Forest that was hugely helpful for me. It not only timed me but also locked me out of my phone, which ended up being the kick I needed. I noted that I was using Forest instead of Clockify in my reflection, and the change was done.
I should note, however, that allowing rules to change doesn’t permit just dropping rules. If you just start dropping rules, it cheapens the values of the rest, and eventually, you’ll give up on those. If you are getting rid of a rule or changing a rule, it’s imperative that you have a good reason for doing so and that you record the change.
The eventual end of it all
At the end of the day, making an improvement a week, no matter how small, piles up (that’s the idea). For me, after about 7 weeks of the project, I was done. The project had given me a lot to think about, and it really helped me get on track at a time where my life was pretty disorderly.
While I’m done adding improvements for the time being, I’m still using many of the improvements I made during the project! I’m still:
- Tracking tasks in Todoist
- Focusing with Forest
- Exercising 5+ times/week
- Paying attention to my screen time and reading my reports
- Blogging (obviously)
- Budgeting with Mint
I’d really encourage anyone reading to try out a project like this. It’s certainly helped me get myself on track in ways that I’ve been attempting for years now. There’s a link to my Github repo at the top, but I’ll drop it again here:
2019-05-21 00:00 +0000