No manifestos, only habits

I’ve mentioned before that I am a reformed procrastinator and slacker. I spent a great deal of my young adulthood not participating, not committing, not getting involved. “I’m not good at projects,” I would say, and avoid starting any. This was completely true; I was terrible at finishing things.

Much later in life I read something that resonated for me. Namely, that nothing is ever “done,” it’s only “done enough.” That perfectionism can lead to fear of failure, and that fear of failure leads to decision paralysis, and nothing ever gets started because one is so worried about not finishing.

In my house we summarize this with the saying, “there is no ‘clean’, there is only ‘cleaner.'” The house will never be CLEAN. But it can be cleaner than it is right this minute, if I just pick up one damn thing.

There are a number of books and programs that I like because they fit this ethic.

I love Unfuck Your Habitat. UFYH has a basic theory, which is that no-one deserves to live in filth and squalor. Moreover, that everyone can makes things better, one tiny step at a time. UFYH is against marathon cleaning, in which everyone ends up exhausted and depressed and crabby. UYFH is about twenty minute of cleaning, then a break, then another short clean.

UFYH is about making new habits that will help you enjoy your life.

I appreciate, and somewhat use, the Getting Things Done program. (Book, program, motivational lecture series — it’s kind of a vaguely cult-y thing.) GTD proposes systems for handling decision-making that ultimately reduce one’s cognitive load. The idea is that the fewer things you have hanging out it the back of your mind, causing you stress and anxiety, the more executive function you will have for actual decision-making. I, personally, find this to be the case.

GTD is also about new habits.

I like Nerd Fitness. the core principle of NF is that we can all change out habits. That changing one’s life (fitness, diet, health) is a matter of changing tiny things every few weeks.

NF argues that sweeping changes don’t last, but habits do.

Now, all of these sites are somewhat hectoring in tone. They all take as a fundamental premise that we humans are kinda lazy, kind unmotivated, and a bit fearful of change. So there is a certain amount of “oh for pity’s sake, what do you mean you can’t do this one tiny change?” This works well for me. It might not work well for you.

But at that same time, all three things are full of cheerleading, and motivational remarks, and applause for fulfilling basic accomplishments.

I don’t know about you, but some days I really appreciate applause for fulfilling basic life accomplishments.


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