(Sorry for those very long posts recently! This journal is my only outlet for productivity nerdery right now…)
Monthly planning with Ultraworking
The Ultraworking event last Saturday was a success! Doing a monthly review and planning ahead has been very helpful.
So what is it that I have been learning there? The event was basically a time boxed and managed planning process that looks back on what has happened in the last month, while collecting ideas on what to do in July, prioritizing those ideas and making sure that they get done.
- Step 1: Debrief - You try to look back on the past month and look at every day, if it has been a good or bad day and what things happened.
- Step 2: Evaluate -
- Step 2a: You write down your biggest problems, opportunities, major commitments and skills do develop.
- Step 2b: You also look at all the “impact areas” (areas, that impact your life) like health, profession, finance, etc.
- Step 3: Prioritize - The collected ideas are evaluated by criticality, certainty (how certain it is to get an intended outcome), cost (How much attention has be spent to this) and you pick your “shortlist” of things to operationalize
- Step 4: Operationalize - Here two things happen
- 4a: You set a monthly theme (mine is “Establish base camp”) and write a short policy statement (mine is “I try to lay the groundwork to have my adventure and have the actual knowledge to make it to the top.”)
- 4b: You decide what you have to do about an idea that made it onto your shortlist. The following is an example for step 4b:
So as you can see it’s a pretty involved process. If lead by a moderator and through hard time boxing it’s possible to do it in 90 minutes, but not without the need to go back and do some rewrites, reprioritization, etc. I probably spent 3 hours, all told.
But all in all I have learned a lot!
Monthly attention budget
One outcome of the monthly planning which took part on Saturday was a reassessment of my available free time in a whole month on Sunday. This basically was the result of trying to map my “commitments and time budget” from last week onto the cost metric in step 3 of the monthly planning spreadsheet. Here is a screenshot of what I mean:
Two things I want to point out: Firstly you can assign a percentage to your idea, which measures the attention you would need to spend in this. Secondly there is a total amount of attention (for me it is 82%) for July.
I have learned the technical term for using an optimal amount of the available productive capacity is capacity utilization. One should optimize this in such a way that there is enough room to be able to deal with anything unexpected, new ideas, etc. Two numbers were thrown around as well: Around 66% is a good amount of productive capacity to utilize and about 80% is “olympic level” meaning that going above this tends to produce more problems than it’s worth. Now, I assume that Beeminder folk - even among productive people - probably rank higher on the scale of how much productivity resource they they tend do commit in advance, but it’s probably still a good thing to keep in mind that planning away 100% of your free time is a bad idea.
This was a key take away from the monthly planning: Time is finite, so you better focus on your highest priorities.
I came up with another spreadsheet (my “monthly attention budget”) that calculates based on the data from my other spreadsheet (the aforementioned “commitments and time budget”)…
- how much time I truly have every month, with work, sleep, beeminder commitments, eating, etc. taken out of it: about 100 hours a month
- how much the different percentages of the total are and what those are in hours, minutes, work cycle sessions (à 3 hours), pomos (25 minutes work + 5 minutes break), days and weekends
It looks like this:
So when trying to allocate how much attention I want to spend on an idea like my blog I can look at the 5% row and see I can work on my blog goal almost two work cycles on top of any beeminder commitments.
Reassessing my top priorities and my beeminder commitments
After the not-so-mild shock of a how little time in a month I have to get things done, I needed to reasses my priorities. What a healthy thing to do!
Instead of 6 so-called top projects, only 2 remain. These can now get my attention finally.
I have also dialed back on a bunch of beeminder goals, as you will see. The reason for this is that I could, of course, choose to spend my time on a kinda broad array of life areas, but I would rather try to focus on my actual priorities and get things done in those. So beeminder needs to be recalibrated in this way, too.
Figured out how to look at my 9 to 5 job
Another thing that has just clicked thanks to the monthly planning session somehow: My “joby job” needs to be treated differently than my free time. It doesn’t need to be part of my personal productivity system as much and can be seen almost as an outside influence. When I go to work we organize it on a kanban board, have dailies and retros and all that stuff. There are people to be taken into account and meetings to be coordinated, there are tickets to be worked on and there is software to be released. All of these things happen in their own universe of which I am a part of, but my other projects outside of work are not.
This means: When doing review tasks like weekly reviews and monthly planning sessions these things don’t need to be reviewed in the same way. They also don’t need to fit holistically in the same way as my personal projects need to. If I would be a freelancer or entrepreneur that would be a different story, since my available attention would have to be used to make money. But right now the deal is: Less available attention in exchange for a steady income. But also less to account for when doing “meta work”.
- I have created Siri shortcuts for my showers, sleepontime, wakupontime and leaveontime goals. It has been super easy (thanks @dehowell) and I don’t know why I waited so long to do it!
- todoist actually has a way to schedule a recurring task based on compleation instead of the original date: every!
- About reviews in GTD: “Getting Things Done addresses the issue by basically saying, “Yeah, it takes effort. Buckle down and do your weekly reviews and you’ll be fine.” I’ve done that in the past, but I don’t really feel like making my todo system as central a part of my life right now as GTD requires.” (@narthur)
Keeping up2date would happen at work and doesn’t need to be accounted for. I either have time to do it at work, or not.
Since I removed 4 “priority” goals my blog became important again as a playground for coding and writing in my free time. Therefore, the commitment to code in my free time should be connected to this higher prioritized goal. So instead of coding for coding’s sake, I try to work on my blog. I also lowered the amount of time I commit to do so (2 hours per week -> 1 hour per week).
Keep a Daily Rhythm
leaveontime’s deadline moved (from 08:50 am to 08:25 am), since that was what I was already aiming for in my head. Leave on time non legitly derailed because I have accidentally deleted a data point.
Stay in Contact With Family
Reading, Writing, Consuming Media
I changed my commmitment to read (2 hours per week -> 1 hour per week) and blog topic (1 per week -> 2 per month). I want to focus on my monthly projects more instead of just reading and since I don’t publish a blog post every week anymore, I lessened the amount of topics to come up with.
Since the monthly planning has been such a success, I will commit to doing it every month.
Sports, Weight Related
I derailed on my my fitness pal goal (mfp). I procrastinated to enter data, as simple and dumb as that.