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Birthlines, Part 1: What Is A Birthline?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Birthlines

This post is the first in a series on a concept known as birthlines. Consider it a teaser.

1. the time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something: a five o’clock deadline. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.

We’ve all heard of deadlines. Even the word sucks. It’s got death in it. That scares people.

Screw deadlines. Deadlines are passé. Birthlines are where it’s at. What is a birthline? Well, if I had to define it, it would go something like this:

1. the time by which something must be started on for a short time; the next time for returning to/starting on something, often used in conjunction with timeboxing:
My next birthline for this project is in 10 minutes for a 1-minute timebox.

Instead of one, big, scary monolithic deadline that will just encourage avoidance behavior, have multiple easy birthlines.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the next post!

PS: Credit where credit is due: we were back and forthing about these ideas a few months ago, and I believe it was Kendo who coined the term “birthlines”. I told him I would yoink it one day and now I have! HAHA! 😀

Series NavigationBirthlines, Part 2: Birthlines, Digital Sampling, Immersion >>

  11 comments for “Birthlines, Part 1: What Is A Birthline?

  1. October 6, 2010 at 00:00

    lol, yay birthlines!

  2. さかしゃ
    October 6, 2010 at 00:39

    This seems interesting. Setting a time for the start of a task; making all the tasks before that have a deadline. Haha.

    October 6, 2010 at 01:17

    Viva Timeboxing and Birthlines!

    I would call them “Newlines” – easier to pronounce.

  4. October 6, 2010 at 02:30

    さかしゃ no, those tasks don’t necessarily have deadlines. they don’t have to be finished, they just have to be paused while u begin working on the birthline.

  5. Lokideviluk
    October 6, 2010 at 07:34

    Birthline is the new Meme, all we need now is for 4chan to adopt it and it have traverssed the world by the weekend.

  6. Aja
    October 6, 2010 at 19:14

    Interesting! That does sound like a better way to approach a project.

    Deadlines seem to encourage people to think of a project as one big, complicated wad of achievement, rather than a series of small, easy wins. Then when there’s a hard “end” time with no set “start” time, the problem is compounded in a weird way: the person has just made the task super-daunting AND easy to put off. He’s pretty much telling himself, “I can begin any time as long as it’s before this date.”

    As you quoted in an earlier tweet, “what may be done at any time will be done at no time.” Or rather, with a deadline, it will be done at the last possible minute, in a marathon of panic and self-flagellation. Whee!

    Birthlines sound far more useful, as well as more fun/pleasant. Lookin’ forward to your upcoming articles about them!

    …For now, thinking of your Player Model (from Potheads, Planners and Players), I think I’ll call mine “spawn points.” 😀

  7. khatzumoto
    October 7, 2010 at 13:17

    Spawn points! I like it…

  8. October 12, 2010 at 16:06

    lol, thief! I just think its awesome that the word and idea are catching on. It’s one more tweak to our “philosophy of work” that can help us push away from the insane ASM indoctrination we recieve in school and the culture at large and turning to a much healthier, more organic way of going about EVERYTHING we do. If something hurts, it means there’s something wrong with it. Sometimes we might have to put up with it because no solution to whatever is wrong has become available yet. The problem is, our culture has interpreted the fact that sometimes we have to put up with pain, as that its somehow valuable to endure that pain. It’s having a good work ethic. It’s polishing the cans of tomato sauce at the Papa John’s because its slow and the boss refuses to let anyone “stand around” on his clock, so you do busy work that doesn’t need done and/or is worthless because its only going to be immediately messed up again. It’s staying hours late after work because everyone else is, despite having finished all of YOUR responsibilities hours ago.

    By finding technical tools like the SRS that make it easier to avoid pain, and psychological tools like birthlines and timeboxes that help us change the way we feel about the work we are doing, and by understanding human behavior and learning how to manipulate yourself into doing what you want yourself to do, with the least pain possible, we can develop a healthy attitude toward work until one day maybe 遊ぶ and 働く are synonyms instead of antonyms.

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