- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 1: What Is Timeboxing, Why Does It Work, And Why Should You Care?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 2: Nested Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 3: Dual Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 3.5: Timeboxing Turns Work Into Play
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 4: Decremental Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 5: Incremental Timeboxing and Mixed Timeboxing
- My (Current) Timeboxing Tools: Hardware Timers
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 6: Q&A
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 7: Isn’t Timeboxing Just A Waste of Time?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 8: Don’t Those Super-Short Timeboxes Make Timeboxing Meaningless?
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 9: Birthlines And Timeboxing
- Timeboxing Trilogy, Part 10: Timeboxing, Tony Schwartz and Recovery
- Decremental Timebox → Real Time Conversion Table
- Can Timeboxing Help Me Do Really Big, Hard Things?
- Three Minutes Of…
- Nothing Is Hard
File this one under “autobiographical advice”….
But I guess that file would include all advice ever given in the history of mankind. All philosophy is (auto)biography…I think Steve Chandler or someone said that once.
So let me paint a little picture for you. The other day, I’m at my house. I wake up in the morning. I take a shower. I gingerly wash my nether regions. I get out, wrap a towel around my modesty, slip into a robe. Then I sit on the couch for a bit to cool off.
16 hours later I’m still on the couch; water is running in the kitchen; the household gas has turned itself off. And I know a whole lot about Roman history. You see, I’d just spent 16 hours watching Spartacus.
Most people would be frustrated. Not me. I was fascinated. I was fascinated because if you had asked me two paragraphs ago: “Hey Khatz, baby, I love how you fill that robe. Wanna watch 16 hours of blood and guts?”, I’d have said: “No, that sounds monotonous”.
So I knew that it wasn’t the case that something was wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with me 1. No, something is right with Spartacus. Spartacus is structured in such a way that it’s easy to watch it for 16 hours.
- Why do you watch Spartacus: Vengeance instead of making that call?
- Why do you shop around for a new trackball mouse on Amazon instead of writing that email?
- Why do you go for a walk instead of working on that project?
Why do you do that meaningless “delta” activity instead of the big, life-changing “alpha” activity you already, unequivocally know truly matters?
Because when you think of alpha, you think too big. You think of all of it at once. And it’s tiring. So tiring. Just thinking of it hurts. “A day of worry is more tiring than a day of work” and all that.
But when you think of delta, you’re only really thinking of clicks and atoms. Delta doesn’t require you to think. Delta doesn’t require you to worry. Delta doesn’t scare you with its enormity. Delta doesn’t make you feel like a chump for not having started earlier. Delta lets you get lost in the moment. Delta comes pre-chunked for you. Delta has been thought out and planned and laid out by someone else. Delta has been designed to be addictive.
You don’t procrastinate because something is wrong with you. You procrastinate because something is right with the avoidance activity. Procrastination is not a morality problem, it’s a design problem. Well-designed activities are never avoided. Poorly designed activities almost always are.
There is no such thing as inherent fun 2. Or if there is, it’s very rare. Almost nothing is inherently fun or unfun. Fun comes from structure. Sometimes accidental or unintentional structure, but always from structure. Think about it — why is Farmville the number one video game in the world (in terms of players)? You don’t like farming, son! Most of human history has been a massive, multi-millennial conspiracy by self-appointed elites (nobles, aristocrats) to avoid having to farm. Similarly, air traffic control is said to be one of the most stressful of all professions, yet there’s apparently a wildly popular air traffic control video game. Let’s not even talk about how video game testers begin to hate video games…
So what else is new, right? Right.
Well, what if I told you you didn’t have to think any more? What if I told you alpha could be as fun and easy as delta? What if I told you you didn’t have to feel like a schmuck any more? What if I told you that alpha could come pre-chunked, and you wouldn’t need to buy or make or develop a new system to do it all? You don’t even have to write anything down (unless you want to). Sounds exciting, right?
Well that’s what “three minutes of” is about.
- Don’t do your taxes. Do three minutes of taxes.
- Don’t finish that project. Do three minutes of it.
- Don’t make that big decision. Do three minutes of it.
And then stop. Return to your hookers and blow.
Don’t finish. Don’t “work on it”. Don’t have a goal. Don’t have a past. Don’t have a future. Just have now.
Three minutes, baby. Because right now, you’re doing jack all. You have made it so that nothing is good enough. And so nothing is exactly what you’re getting. I know you are because I know you. And you’re me. You’re better than me, but not by much. You’re still weak and lazy and scared. Less so than I am. But not by much.
Three minutes. That’s all.
We’re so obsessed with being “right” and getting it “right” and doing things “the” “right” way that we frequently neglect to do them at all. This isn’t perfectionism. This isn’t fastidiousness. This is lunacy. It’s the exact equivalent of holding your breath until you figure out how to breathe “right”. No. This is madness. Thus us Sparta. Breathe badly if you have to, but do breathe. You can fix it up all nice and fancy later. Maybe you’re like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the only diaphragm you’re familiar with is that thing chicks use. No matter. You’ll learn how to breathe “properly” later. For now, just breathe.
- Don’t hold your breath until you figure out some mythical, I dunno, “Aryuvedic”, “correct” way of breathing
- Don’t stop drinking water until you analyze every brand that exists
- Don’t get it right. Get it started. Don’t get it good. Get it going. Don’t get it finished. Touch it. Don’t do it. Do three minutes of it.
Don’t do tasks. Don’t do projects. And definitely don’t “finish” them…good gosh. Instead, do “minutes of” — it doesn’t have to be three. Think about it — this is how you do your Facebook, your email, your TV. You never set out to “do all your Facebook” or “finish your Facebook”. You just…do a coupla minutes of Facebook. And a couple more. And a couple more. Until you’ve ruined your life . You don’t set out to eat 7 tubs of fake Scandinavian ice-cream. It’s just one spoonful at a time.
You never intend to watch 16 hours of Spartacus – the mere idea would scare and bore you. You just say yes or no to one episode — the commitment is limited; there is a clear, unambiguous startpoint; there is a clear, unambiguous endpoint. The mental burden is low: you make only onedecision — a single, clear, two-second choice — once an hour. And the rest of the time you just sit there, mindless. If Spartacus came as a single, massive, 37-hour with no slicing, no chunking — no episode splits — you probably wouldn’t even open the box. And even if you made it that far, you would barely make it through the first 40 minutes.
Look at you. You’ve been intending to sit down and watch the Special Extended Editions of the entire Lord of the Rings movie trilogy for years now, yet you just “never seem to get around to it”. Why? Because the structure is all wrong. It’s too big. Too much to think about. Nine hours? Screw that.
Pick whatever SRS. Do whatever reps. Buy whatever manga. Just do it. No, don’t just do it. Don’t do it. Don’t finish it. Don’t get it right. Just do “three minutes of” it. Or whatever number hits you right. And chill — a bad direction is far easier to correct than non-movement.
Don’t read a book. Do three meetings of reading. 3
Get out that timer and carve yourself a little salami slice of slick awesomeness 4.