I was thinking about how habits determine what you do consistently. Then, I thought about how the things I thought went well last month were things that I did consistently, and the things I felt didn't go well were things I did intermittently. (And if you reduce that further, it becomes: The things I spent time on actually got done.)
Right now, the only solid habits I have are working out (I've been working out almost every weekday for several years), and when I was doing the song-a-week challenge, composing regularly for a few months.
So, I thought: what if I could extend that to these things that I want done that didn't get done? The way I make working out done is that I have a few different workouts that I can pick from when it's time to work out. They're not predetermined, which feels less restrictive to me when it's time to actually do them.
I started writing down the things that I want done and putting them into categories, so that I could take an approach similar to that of the workouts. I could schedule ahead of time which categories of thing I'd do each day but decide what I'd actually do on that actual day.
The categories I came up with existed on two axes: domain and uncomfortableness. Uncomfortableness is there because it corresponds to difficulty in my workout options. Sometimes, I do six sets of burpee/pull-up/stretch circuits, and sometimes I run for 10 minutes then do a single set of pull-ups. If I do the latter, then the next day, I try to do something like the former. Alternating keeps the habit from feeling oppressive.
The domains I grouped things into were:
- Work for cash.
- Production. This is making something using what you already know.
- Life. This is life maintenance stuff, like clearing up clutter, doing a special activity with your kid, or fixing a bug in your personal blogging software.
- Edification. This is learning and practicing, both useful and useless. There is a lot of overlap here with Production.
I plotted out what two weeks of evenly going through these would be like. For each domain, I do something uncomfortable, then the next day, I do something comfortable, then the day after that, I don't do anything with it at all. (The exception is the work for cash domain, in which I don't take any weekday breaks.) The amount of time I spend on each domain activity is not fixed or determined by this habit schedule.
In this form, it looks like it might work. Then, I plotted out what these two weeks would look like with actual activity choices, instead of just dots indicating that I'd do something in that domain.
Here, a big flaw is exposed.
I end up doing activities in production and edification roughly once every two weeks. But I can't realistically write an interactive explainer by doing it for two hours, taking a two week break, then working on it for another two hours. I definitely will not finish the vocode tool that way (and that's kind of what I drifted into doing in November).
So I cannot avoid prioritization and the sacrificing of projects just by following a habit plan. I actually still have to decide x will not be done and y will not be done.
Which I kind of knew in the back of my head when I started scheming. I needed to draw something out to prove it, though.
That said, I still think it can help with things that aren't projects. That is, non-time-sensitive activites that don't have an ending and can be frozen and thawed easily, like learning how to use a new DAW or writing D&D material.
I also realized that there's things I neglect doing that are actually comfortable. I could get a lot out of making those habits.
But I still have to figure out what to do about the projects, which I don't think can be tackled well by habits.