The benefit of having your subconscious make decisions isn't so much that it's a better decision maker than your conscious mind (it's probably not), but that it can make decisions much much faster than your conscious mind. You don't have to spend your focus and energy making decisions that you already have heuristics for.
For example, when I play poker, many of the decisions are made by my subconscious. This allows me to make many good analyses per minute, rather than just a few, and to dedicate my conscious processing to the most important factors at hand. It's not that I couldn't do all of the processing consciously, it's just that I wouldn't have time.
In the same way that offloading work to your subconscious helps you make decisions and opinions faster, I've found that implementing protocols has helped me take action faster, and has been a key component of my recent increase in productivity.
When you think about it, most of what you do is the same every day. The way you wake up, eat your meals, go to sleep, approach your work, and utilize your free time all follow predictable patterns. If that's true-- why don't we optimize these things for maximum efficiency?
I used to wake up, get on my computer, and start thinking about what I was going to do for the day. Sometimes I'd have tea, sometimes I wouldn't. Sometimes I would brush my teeth as soon as I woke up, other times I'd wait until I was first leaving the RV. Sometimes I would start work immediately, other times I would go out and eat breakfast. The real problem with this process was that although I would typically do everything I needed to do, I would waste considerable mental energy on planning it all.
Since then, I've developed protocols, ordered lists of steps I take in various situations. For example, when I wake up now, I immediately brush my teeth and put a pot of water on the stove before I open my computer. While the water for my tea heats up, I check my email, twitter, Facebook finances, etc. When the tea is ready, I plan out my tasks for the day (which always include, Blog Post, Chinese, and some SETT related tasks, in addition to other day-specific stuff), and I begin my daily writing. It usually takes me half an hour to finish my writing, by which time my tea isn't finished. So I listen to my daily Chinese Pod while I drink tea. After that I work on SETT or other daily tasks/errands until 1:45pm.
That's my morning protocol. I have a protocol for lunch and for midnight to 2am. Dinner varies a bit more, but still rather constrained. At first having such a rigid schedule struck me as inhibiting my freedom (I started most of this to punish myself for poor enthusiasm for pickup when I committed to two months of it), but in reality I find that it actually increases my freedom. Much in the same way that delegating decisions to your subconscious allows your conscious mind leeway to tackle the most important problems, I find that creating protocols for the minutiae of the day frees me to focus on what's most important at any given time.
Post is sunset on Hua Shan, but pretend that it's sunrise to make it more relevant.
Ironically I've been off my protocols since I traveled to China. Really looking forward to having a solid 2.5 weeks in SF with no trips to get back on them!
I promise to buy from your affiliate links if you can get the gear post out soon. soon enough to get guaranteed shipping before xmas :)
in the meantime: do you still recommend the tombhin bag or have you found something better?
thanks for the awesome work!
Cool post! And really good timing... I have a document I review monthly that I've evolved over the past few years that helps with this, and it happens that today is the day I'm scheduled to review it again. Just thought I'd share some of my system, too.
One thing I've found that helps with the rigidity is to have modules for different parts of the day... for example:
Posted somewhere on your site our study of the diets of the long-lived people of Vilcabamba- it parallels in some respects your diet-haven't seen the post as yet.
I do the same things, Tynan. I have found that creating routines, as I call them (but protocols is a pretty cool word too) is helpful to keep me on track. I am in my mid-forties and I had to laugh when I discovered this because on some level it helps me to understand older people and their set ways. lol... Perhaps we can learn more from our previous generations than we sometimes think.
What is your Chinese Pod? I am trying to learn Chinese as well, more to read and write it than speak it but I suppose if I am going to a Chinese restaurant, it would be good to say thank you in their native tongue.
Great post, as usual. Now I read them every time. Yours is the only email that I consistently read that is not my close friends and family. Fab.
Love the idea of protocols every day and am also mindful of the flexibility required with them when moving around often. Being based in a location for an extended time helps.
As always, a thought provoking, life enhancing post. Thanks :))
Do you use Chinese Pod because you find it to be the most effective, efficient way to keep learning Chinese or is it because it is a somewhat "mindless" dosage of Chinese to keep up with while enjoying your tea (i.e. listening to a Chinese Pod is probably better than reading some garbage news website or browsing Facebook)? I find that the lessons are memorable and fun but have a fairly small content to time required ratio.
One day last week I drank too much tea too late in the day. Instead of going to bed at my normal 1:30-2am time, I went to bed after 3am. The next morning I woke up around eleven, feeling a bit slothful for sleeping in. Usually I make some nice green tea in the morning, but I skipped it that day, half because I had overdosed on tea the day before, and half because it was almost the afternoon. I sat down at my computer, but instead of doing my daily planning, I started researching Persian rugs.
By one in the afternoon I was still sitting at my computer in my skivvies, having done nothing more substantial than gain a comprehensive amateur understanding of what to look for in a Persian rug, and maybe answering a handful of medium-priority emails.
The day was off to a bad start. Not a horrific start, like the kind where you lose your arm in a grain combine, but the kind where you've gotten such a slow start that the day begins to feel like a waste.
I opened up Google Calendar to plan my day, but then closed it. What's the point, I thought, when I've already wasted so much time? There was no chance it was going to be an excellent day, so my brain was trying to steer me towards just writing the day off and refocusing on the next one.
One of the things I've gotten tremendous amounts of mileage out of it is tracking my time, habits, and life each day.
To put it simply - I now realize it's impossible to understand how your life is going without some careful observation. There's a lot of time each day, and knowing where that time goes, what you ate, what you did and didn't do... it's almost impossible to get a good picture of your life without some kind of measuring.
I'm going to you my newest tracking template, and then I'll give some analysis. Before I start though, I'd like to share a quote -
“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.” -John Gall
Thus, if you want to track your time, please do not attempt to track 20 things at once, because it's unlikely to work. I started very simply, as I described in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking" - I'd recommend you read that post if you want to do something like this.