The one thing I consistently fail to account for when planning trips, especially shorter ones, is the disruption it will cause to my routine. For over a hundred days in a row, I wrote a blog post every day, did a Chinese lesson, worked on SETT, and a few other things for which I hold myself accountable.
I went to Peru for ten days, and although I started off strong, jamming in the blog post and Chinese lessons on my flights and bus ride to the Andes, once I started hiking I stopped doing those things. No real foul there, because breathing and walking had become difficult first priorities. When I got back to civilization, still in Peru, I resumed working hard on SETT, but I stopped doing Chinese lessons. I was practicing Spanish every day, though, so that made it okay. I wrote a monster blog post about Peru and sort of let myself coast on that. After all, it was a lot longer than my average post.
I got back to San Francisco and had only a week before I was going to Mexico. That week was great. I felt bad about being off schedule, so I used that as motivation to get back on. I rated three of those days as As and four as Bs, which is a pretty solid week. Next there are ten days completely missing from my schedule. I remember them, though. I worked on SETT every day while I was in Mexico, at a reduced capacity, as expected. I did a couple Chinese lessons, but was speaking Spanish, and fell behind on blog posts. Maybe I wrote four during those ten days.
Again, I got back and got back on schedule, but this time with less consistency. One day I gave myself an F and didn't even write any notes on the day. A few others I got Ds. There are As and Bs, too, but not as many as there should be.
Two weeks later I left for China, where I stayed for three weeks. I worked hard on SETT the whole time, but barely wrote any blog posts. Worst of all, I didn't keep a daily log. Then I got back, and like magic, my habit of daily tracking was gone. So were Chinese lessons, and so was blogging.
I've been back for a couple weeks now and I don't think I've written any blog posts besides the gear post. I haven't tracked a single day. I've done good work on SETT, but it's my overwhelmingly major priority, so that's sort of a given at this point.
I go through this whole sequence not to flagellate myself, but to think about it and examine what went wrong. I accept that I'll make mistakes, but my rule for myself is that when I make a mistake I own up to it, figure out what went wrong, and get back on the horse.
So I'm in the saddle today. I kept my daily accountability journal, planned my day, and wrote this blog post. I haven't done a language lesson because I'm going to switch back to Japanese focus for a few months before going there and I haven't worked out a game plan yet.
What went wrong? I forgot about the most important thing-- consistency. It's WAY better to do a terrible job on habits than to not do them at all. Better than not recording a day is recording it with blanks. Better than that is recording it with guesses. Better than not writing a blog post is writing a paragraph on my phone about how I ran out of time or motivation or whatever. Better than that is writing a really bad post that never makes it to the light of day. At least these actions keep the consistency. That's the hard part.
You could have an incredible day today. You could tackle the most important thing on your todo list with all of your attention. You could handle those half dozen errands that have been piling up. You could write a great blog post. You could call the people who are waiting for calls back. That's the easy part. I'm sure we've all had manic days like that where everything just clicks and we feel superhuman.
But how do you get a week like that? You work on it every day. Some days you perform at an A, others at a D, but as the weeks and months and years pass by, your average inches upwards along with your standards. Eventually you have a week that feels like a B or a C, but if you had looked at it a year prior you would have called it a definite A.
I've been really consistent about two things, blogging and programming. I have tons of work to do on both, and wouldn't claim to be an expert on either, but that's how my progression has been. An average blog post now is better than my best ones used to be. The amount of useful work I can add to SETT per day is probably 3-5x what it was two years ago.
Not always, but very often the hardest parts of things are the most valuable parts. That's true of performance. One of the hard parts of it is consistency, but consistency is the very foundation of high performance. Keep chugging away, putting in work, getting better, and eventually you're good. Keep at it and you're great. Then excellent.
So consistency is the hard part, but it's also the good part. There's a meta element to this, that the more consistent you get about being consistent on things, the easier it becomes to maintain that consistency. That's how you really accelerate, compounding the wins you're creating.
As for me? I'm back to being consistent on a few of my things, and today is day one. Again.
Picture caption? I'm guessing this is near where you were enjoying the Sasquatch tea you hunted down in China.
It's true, being consistent is much better than on and off activity. I like how you presented it by degree.
Two questions: 1. What are you programming SETT in? and 2. How much fluency do you make your goal in your languages?
Programming in PHP.
My goal for languages is to be able to have a clumsy conversation with anyone. So maybe my vocab and grammar aren't great, but they'll understand me at least. I'll probably have to make substitutions like "The very fast train" instead of "The bullet train", etc. I'd like to get a lot better than that, but once I get there I tend to move on to another language instead of chase the diminishing returns.
Hang on there, Ty! I understand the need for self-discipline, but when you are paying thousands of dollars to travel to some remote place, shouldn't you then attempt to do unique things there?!? Things which you couldn't do in your regular location, be it SFO or Austin. BTW, I have an unrelated question for you: How do you maintain romantic relationship(s) with all that traveling? I am struggling with this myself at the moment.
Who said anything about thousands? :)
I definitely don't attempt to be 100% productive when traveling. Like when I was hiking through the Andes, I expected not to work for 2-3 days. In Mexico I expected to work about 4-5 hours per day, maybe taking 1-2 days off.
Really the problem with what happened was that there were many days in China where I did nothing but hang out in the apartment and work, and on those days I didn't stick to my system. So when I got back to the US, it was easy to keep slacking on it.
As for romantic relationships-- it's tough. You have to be dating someone who's extremely independent (or just have her travel with you, which I've never actually done long-term). This is probably the hardest part about being nomadic.
I finally had another few minutes between papers and tests. Finals week at college!
I see you use a grading system and keep a log. I do something similar, but to that I add graphs.
For writing, I keep a word count, but a "word" is defined as a "good word," so it's not just a raw number; it's the number of words in the finished product. With my carving, in addition to hours spent, I also compare that to the value of the finished pieces, so I get a value per hour. It is interesting to see how those graphs change. Whenever I try a new style or new tools, the graphs go down, and then, as I master the new form, the highs become higher than ever and the lows are higher than previous lows...
Or not. Sometime the graphs show I'm wasting time, so I need to change what I'm doing.
I don't use a spreadsheet. I do it the old fashioned way and hang the graphs on my board near my desk, so they are always present.
I have had an on again off again relationship with working out and exercise in general. (Graphs there too) The only solution I've found is to allow myself light days when I simply don't feel strong. That at least keeps me in the habit.
[I too have been seeing the "Guest" thingy while the upper right shows me logged in. Haven't tried deleting cookies, but logging out and logging works. I'll try deleting my cookies to see if that fixes it.]
You are consistently putting yourself into variable situations and solving problems as they happen. Life is a series of solving problems. Traveling seems to accelerate the process. The purpose of education - formal or not is...change.
Great reminder on working on one's habits.
Can you explain more about your tracking system sometime? I think it's the first time you mention it (or I missed the other times). I guess it's an adaptation of Sebastian Marshall's tracking (as is mine).
How are the grades working for you and based on what do you give them (gut feeling, metrics,..)? Personally I mark each day as (WIN/FAIL/OK) and track progress I made that way in a little chart (WIN = +1, FAIL =-1)
Maybe my favorite post you've ever written. Probably because it clicks with what I've been thinking in my own life lately, but still a great insight that I think we often undervalue.
I got out of my car this morning to hop on a plane and realized I had forgotten my Chinese language books. Still curious about which Chinese podcast you are talking about.
I can totally relate to the consistency thing. You just have to keep getting back on that horse.
Maybe nothing "went wrong." Maybe it is possible to be consistent at one, or two, or three things - but not at the twenty or thirty that you (and I) aspire to. Especially not with the traveling that you do.
I do wonder whether daily grading is best - "local optimization" doesn't always lead to the best long-term results. Still figuring this out for myself.
[SETT feedback: top-right shows me logged in as "Ashish" - I clicked on a mail link to login since SETT is always losing my browser login - but the Comment system shows me writing as "Guest."]
I like to err on the side of believing that things are possible, and only changing that stance when the evidence is overwhelmingly against it. In this case, I tracked this stuff for four months successfully, and found the practice very helpful. The daily grading is a quick way for me to spot trends.
re: SETT-- can you try deleting your cookies and seeing if that fixes it? We made some changes to how SETT handles sessions.
I'm sitting by a crackling fire at my aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey and we're just a couple hours into the new year, which means that it's a perfect time to review the year and look forward.
If I were to title my year, I'd call it the year I got serious. Something interesting happened near the end of 2011-- I realized that I wasn't actually on track for a lot of my goals, that I was going to have to actually get serious about stuff, and that this seriousness had to come in the form of action, not talk. I ended 2011 with a few months of solid productivity under my belt, and a year-end post that optimistically predicted a productive year.
I'm happy to say that the productive year materialized, and that my focus on getting serious has intensified.
When I was young, maybe third grade or so, a psychologist did a study at my middle school. We answered some questions and were offered two choices: a small prize now or a large prize later. I took the small prize now. I think knew it was the wrong move at the time, but the pack of stickers on the table looked like a lot of fun. Later on the big prizes were given to the waiters in such a way that I was able to see what they got. Sure enough, their prizes were a lot better and my stickers were long gone.
About the author: Matt Ackerson is the founder of PetoVera, a professional web design company, and an avid student of the principles of creativity and self-improvement. He writes a daily article on the company’s blog.
This post isn’t really about punching holes through walls (although you can if you really want to try), and yes, “WTF” indeed, so please read on…
Imagine yourself on a journey. You’re walking to get to your destination, a goal perhaps, something you want. You walk for hours, days, maybe years.
A lack of food or water is not an issue on this journey. But at some point, you arrive at a giant concrete wall that blocks your path, even as you are certain that the thing you desire is just beyond this boundary.