How to Establish Discipline with How Much Time You Assign to Tasks

So, one of the things that you have to really wrestle with and start living rhythmically, one of the biggest transitions people have to go through is they have to decide how disciplined they’re going to be in respecting time-bounded limits to the things that they are assigning on their rhythm. So, an example is when you say I’m going to spend an hour, let’s say, cleaning, doing a bunch of chores around the house and you get into it and you end up spending two hours. Well, that has a ripple effect on the rhythm of your week. And so, what a lot of people do at that point is they throw out the rhythm. And what they’re really wrestling with is the tension between tasks like a list, an endless list of tasks, to-do items and a time-bounded rhythm. And our instincts are almost always to just get the tasks done and throw ourselves at the to-do list.

But the problem is there’s no way for us to figure out while we’re just buried in tasks, if we’re investing too much time in any given task. And this is often leads to burnout. This exact thing happens with money. There’s really two ways to handle money. You can just throw all the money that you have and not pay attention to how much you have, the scarcity of your budget, at whatever thing you’re interested in right then, this nice restaurant I want to eat at, or this item I want to buy. And the only way to stop that is through budgeting, through giving every single dollar a name before you spend it. Now, there is an equivalence to that with time, you can give every minute a name before you spend it. And if you do that, then you will begin to be able to craft a much more balanced daily rhythm, weekly rhythm and life.

But that takes a lot of discipline and a big discipline. And where this oftentimes breaks down almost immediately for people is they budget an hour for one activity and then they give it two, three hours. And then they’re like, “See, it took two or three hours. This doesn’t work.” Same thing happens with budgets, “Oh, I didn’t know that milk prices were going up. I just had to buy it. So I guess budgets don’t work.” And that’s the way some people react. And then, they just go back to the chaos that’s created by an endless to-do list.

And it’s important, you guys, to understand that oftentimes when you are crafting your rhythm, you do it really badly at first. In other words, you don’t really know how much time some of this stuff really needs. And so, when you’re actually living into your rhythm, you’re constantly breaking it. And so, that’s why you’re given another day or another week. You have to take those things into account. And then you have to make really difficult trade-off decisions. And a lot of us just don’t want to make those trade-off decisions. So we, instead of making them when we are most capable of making good decisions, we make them in the moment when we don’t have a big picture perspective of our whole day or our whole week, or our values as a family or our mission. So you, Jeff, how have you thought about this and how have you guys sort of wrestled with the tension between just do, do, do, do, and actually time-bounding the things in your rhythm?

Yeah. No, I totally agree. Everything has a domino. Everything has a certain effect. And I think you said it all. I would just mention, one really helpful practice we do is we try to make ourselves our own boss. And what I mean by that is we have to give ourselves reports. You know what I mean? I think a lot of us don’t do that well. I talked about this even on the behind the scenes in Homeroom last week. A lot of us are really good at just being like, “Here’s my ideal week.” But a lot of us never look back on that week. Right. And that’s almost 90% of the job. People that look back are almost way stronger five years from now than people that just keep trying to cast an ideal week. Now, cast the ideal week, but you have to look back. That’s where you go, “Oh, that didn’t work. That did work.”

So really look back and then be your own boss. And what I mean by that is you as an employee come into the boss’s office and give them a report of, this is how you spent it. And just that little framework in my head helps a lot. I have to give myself a report, give myself an account of how I spent the time. And the way you do is just like a boss. A boss would coach that person through, “Oh, you allocated this, but you spent this. Let’s just tweak that. Let’s move that.” I don’t know why, but that framework helps me kind of separate them to kind of move the pieces around. But I think you definitely have to do that.

Yeah, I do the same thing. I call it executive Jeremy and worker Jeremy. And if I let worker Jeremy decide in the moment how he’s going to spend time, he makes terrible decisions. But executive Jeremy who’s like in the morning or at that meeting, he makes much better decisions, 10 times better decisions. And that’s basically what you’re doing is you’re giving that boss side of you the power to make the decisions. But then you have to, being the worker, you have got to be a good employee to yourself and that you have to be good at sticking with it and then reporting back and then tweaking as opposed to just blowing it all up in the morning and say, “I’m the boss. So I can just blow it all up.” And then start from scratch every day with less ability to actually see yourself coming out of that chaos.

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