Getting Things Done: A Season of Experiment

Tarore of Te Waharoa. Joan of Arc. Anne Frank. Elizabeth of Hungary. Sophie Scholl. Therese of Lisieux. Wilfred Owen. Mrs Beeton.

What do all these people have in common? They all died at a younger age than I am now, all having left their mark upon the world (whether they knew it or not).

Even if I live to be a hundred (unlikely), I am still nearly a third of the way through my life. And should I happen to die tomorrow (possibly more likely than the die-at-100 scenario, albeit still fairly unlikely), I do not think I will pop off content with how I have spent my time on this wandering orb.

General Thaddeus Kosciusko by Benjamin West
What am I doing with my life?
So I have decided! It is time to Do Something about my lamentably disorganized life. It’s a chronic problem for people who don’t have an external schedule imposed upon them: things you could do at any time tend to end up not happening at all, because no time is “any time”. (Rather like the “press any key” issue: a specific choice must be made.) Do you know the feeling?

The problem, of course, is that while the world is so full of a number of things, many of which are productivity methods, there is no single The Best For Everyone. One must find one’s own way, and try not to be too smugly evangelistic about it once discovered.

So, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, I have made a selection from my list of Theoretical Housework Plans, and added a number of popular systems I’ve heard of lately. Of course, this isn’t solely about getting housework done. I could manage that just fine, were it not for the fact that the garden, writing, interpersonal communication and all other aspects of life would dwindle into utter ruin.

Visitor to moonlit churchyard
Wow, the garden got a bit out of control. Also the housework…
The plan is to try out each of the ten (so far) methods for one week, Tuesday to Sunday (Monday being my day off), observing the results not only in terms of what did and didn’t get done, but also the effects on me. There is, after all, little point in being hyper-productive if it leaves you at week’s end longing for a merciful death.

Should any of you wish to join in, or simply observe from the sidelines, perhaps suggesting further methods to attempt, I am all ears, and the comment section is all yours.

The first method I intend to attempt is the Keystone Habit, mentioned in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. (Also called a Cornerstone Habit, though a cornerstone and a keystone are not the same thing; albeit both are, in their own ways, essential.) The idea is that you work on developing one particularly significant habit that will have flow-on effects to the rest of your life.

Uilenkop als sluitsteen, voor restauratie - Groningen - 20361454 - RCE
Keystone depicting what Deborah looks like first thing in the morning.
There are many potential habits I could choose from, but I think the one I will start with is starting my day on time when the Bolero goes off. (It doesn’t seem quite right to call it an alarm. And anyway, who wants to start every day with an alarming experience?) This will not only make the most of my time in the morning, but also ensure that I get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before, and – who knows? – maybe even have an influence on me getting some exercise during the day, so as to be sure of getting some good sleep.

The Keystone Habit Experiment shall commence on the morning of Tuesday 18th of June, and I shall be sure to report back the Tuesday following – as well as announcing the next experiment.

What habit would you choose for a Keystone Habit Experiment?

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