2018 Q3

July 02, 2018

Today is the first day of Q3. This is a note about process, and how I plan.

I've spent a lot of my life writing software, which, at industrial scale, is a highly process-driven endeavor. So it's probably not surprising that I apply the same ideas to my own life. Whether you call it OODA, iterations, whatever, the idea is the same: (1) spend a bit of time figuring out what to do, (2) do it, (3) evaluate what worked and what didn't, and then (4) go back to step 1.

I do this once each quarter. There are three steps. The first: taking inventory of my "roles".

"Roles" are a Stephen Covey construct; they define what you are to others. Examples: "father", "vice president", "Chinese language student". Currently I have eight, which is on the upper end of comfort. 7 roles feels about right to me.

The next question: what do I want to accomplish over the next 13 weeks, in each of these areas? I use Silicon Valley's OKR framework. The idea is to identify what you want to accomplish—your "objectives"— then figure out some measurable indicator that you've gotten there, or at least gotten closer, the "key results". If the objective is "get healthier", a quarterly key result might be "eat dinner at home 60 nights".

Then, finally, keep notes on your progress day-to-day. Each day, when I start working, I write the week and day of the quarter, "w1/d1" for today. It's a gentle reminder that time flies, that I need to live with urgency. Knowing which week I'm in connects each day to the larger goals; it gives me perspective. The larger view forces me to recognize when I'm falling behind, and when I have to make adjustments.

Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) says systems are better than goals; I think he's got that right. Willpower is just too fleeting to reliably regulate behavior. It's much easier to get set by putting your life on autopilot toward what you want. Make it take as few decisions as possible, and you'll greatly increase your odds of getting there.

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