The Day That Might Be

The Day That Might Be

Today's Notebook This is a continuation of The Day that Almost Was, which is turning into a series on rebuilding my rituals.

The Sleeping Ritual

Yesterday was a day devoted to synchronization of my schedule with the rest of the world. My schedule had been crazy before, 4-8 hours of wakefulness followed by 4-6 hours of sleep. As you might expect, it became very difficult to predict when I would be awake and when I would be asleep. This is the schedule I tend to fall into when I’m doing any kind of computer programming. This time, though, I was paying attention to the contextual factors that might be contributing to the sleep pattern:

  • Mental clarity – When I’m wrestling with a non-trivial programming problem, it’s quite exhausting. After about 4 hours of this kind of concentration, I need a break. The quickest recharge is a quick nap.

  • Eating patterns – I tend to eat richly when I’m programming, because during a coding break my attention is still on the problem, and my body naturally takes advantage of the distraction to stuff itself with bad carbs that induce sleepiness.

  • Obsessive interaction – when I’m in the zone, I’m in a continuous cycle of tweaking and testing. This is especially likely when I get a tricky bit of code working; it’s rewarding to see it functioning that didn’t exist before, and I’ll tend to play with it and try things to see what happens. This often leads to another cycle of coding, and before I know it 12 hours have gone by.


p>Anyway, I managed to tire myself out by not getting a lot of sleep the night before, and staying up until midnight. This is perhaps the only time that the online TV watching service Hulu has helped me wake up early; by catching up on episodes of Fringe and Bones, I was able to stay awake long enough to go to sleep at a “regular” time. Was up at 7AM! Wow!

Last night I also discovered something: turning off the air filter makes it really, really quiet. And it’s actually kind of nice. I have hairy cats that are constantly generating clouds of dust and fur, so I keep air filters running constantly in several rooms of the house. For some reason or another, I turned the one in my bedroom off, and when I awoke I felt much refreshed. I also noticed just how quiet it was. I didn’t think the air filter was that loud, but it was a subtly and sweet difference. Perhaps I can put the thing on a 24-hour timer, and when it shuts off it will remind me of sweet, sweet slumber.

The Notebook Ritual

This morning at Starbucks, I experienced a moment of irritation at having to copy the ToDo items from yesterday to today’s page. The problem: I had to flip back and forth between pages. For about fifteen minutes I brainstormed ways to get around this problem, considering solutions like maintaining a small notebook for todos and using the larger notebook for the dailies. This had the drawback of adding another notebook, but perhaps if its role was VERY CLEAR, it would work…but then some of the thinking from yesterday surfaced: come on, how hard is it to flip a page back and copy it? So I tried it, and it didn’t suck as much as I thought it would. Page flipping is a pet peeve of mine in information design, so I try to avoid it as much as possible, but in this case I think it’s actually OK: you don’t need the big picture all on one page when you are just transferring a few action items at a time. And it’s especially OK when you’re mindfully picking a few things at a time to transfer. It’s actually a good thing. Who’d have thunk it?

The Scheduling Ritual

While I was doing this, I had an idea for a refinement for the Emergent Task Planner based on the way I’m scheduling my day. I had sorted my tasks on-the-fly into Work, Errands, Chores, Social, and Projects. I wrote the one that was foremost on my mind first (Work). I wasn’t exactly sure when I would do all these things, but I knew I could stuff them into one of three time periods: morning, afternoon, and evening. From my previous musings on productivity synchronization I knew that certain time blocks were likely to be useless for focused work, and without thinking I assigned an ENTIRE TASK BLOCK to it. Which is very interesting because it simplifies the scheduling process while also introducing the idea of “intended balance”.

I still have to print out the Dream Context Tracker. While I did buy printer ink yesterday, it turns out I was out of the big black ink, not the color ink. Damn!

Today’s Focus

I want to have today be mostly a work day, but I have a Social block scheduled at noon. From past experience I know that this wreaks havoc with productivity afterwards for the same amount of time spent being social (it’s draining for an introvert like myself, even when I am enjoying myself). I’m going to pay attention to how it feels afterwards; I’m thinking that maybe some meditative thinking afterwards could reduce the recovery time. We shall see.


  1. Fred Schechter 12 years ago

    Dave, Have you tried the Livescribe pen yet?

  2. Warren 12 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve just had a shot at a generalised formula for success, which aims to be a broad way of breaking success down. I hadn’t thought of adding habits to the model, but I suppose it’s actually quite essential to have habitual ways of behaving each day that bring you closer to the goal. If you’re interested, my little formula is here: I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

    Best, Warren

  3. David M Beach 12 years ago

    lol.. I love the realization I occasionally have of.. ” ohh cmon… how hard is it to.. ( insert relatively simple task that I tried to complicate here..)

    I have about twenty different styles of todo lists.. and find sometimes I spend more time trying to organize todo lists then actually doing whats on the list….

  4. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    Fred: I have one, but I don’t use it as it’s still a bit cumbersome.

    Warren: I checked out your formula, and it strikes me as more as a description of a model that’s in common use, as you’ve noted at the end of your post. I suppose the direction you take your refinement depends on whether you consider yourself more of a pure or applied scientist of positive psychology.

    David: Organizing to-do lists helps make one feel like they’re in charge, rather than the other way around, perhaps! That’s why I’ve tried to break away from it to find the minimum necessary effort (plus, I’m lazy).

  5. poscogrubb 12 years ago

    I don’t know about this post and the one that preceded it. Maybe I’m just personally in a period of productivity where the goal is set, the steps are clear, and I just need to get stuff done. All this navel-gazing stuff is just so… annoyingly navel-gazing! Sorry to be so blunt.

    I’m also disappointed that there is no evidence that you are using the ever-adored Printable CEO.

  6. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    poscogrub: Good for you, man! I’m not in the same place you are right now, and I’m following my own clarity: write what’s on my mind. I’m not even sure why you’ve bothered to comment. Just complaining? :)

  7. Karissa Watson 12 years ago

    Hey Dave I have a solution to your Page flipping problem. It’s a Circa Notebook by Levenger:

    Instead of spiral bound or 3 rings, the paper is on gooved discs. You can peel out the pages and rearrange it to anyway you want, any size of paper you want. AND with the Circa punch you can make your own pages to fit in the book.

    You should get connected with them for selling some of your pages design as page refills.

  8. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    Karissa: Thanks for the heads-up! How do you like the Circa? I’ve looked at them and at the similar Rollabind system, and there was something about the feel of it that I couldn’t quite get used to. Plus, I like putting my fountain pen in the wire cage of my Cachet Classic Graphs. I’ll have to give ’em a go, though, one of these days, because it’s probably the easiest solution to make some of the custom notebook systems I’ve been toying with.

  9. Karissa Watson 12 years ago

    Oh I just love Circa. It’s totally changed my brain book. I also looked Rollabind, but from what I found, the feedback was better for Circa. They improved the punch to make the holes slightly bigger so the pages flip better.

    They also just came out with Clincher Discs that you can slide your (right sized) pen through the center.

    I started out with the Circa Simply Irresistible Sampling Kit for $40 and it includes a $40 gift card for your next purchase which I bought the Circa Starter Kit (Junior) $14.

    Oh also sign up for the Levenger Product Catalog. It’s the one thing in the mail that I always look forward to. My wish list is very long…