Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Unfreezing the sled, or, regaining momentum.

Published: 02 Nov 2012

When dog-sledding, heat is generated on the runners which melts the ice. When the sled stops the water will freeze. The sled becomes frozen to the ice. There is specific knowledge required free the sled. Brute forcing certainly could work, it requires more effort. It’s a matter of teamwork between the dogs and the driver.

At the start of this week I felt frozen. My momentum seemed to have evaporated completely. It was rough. I was a stuck sled.

It shouldn’t have been this way. It should have been a great week! The TDP app went out to the app store. I worked hard on the app, even though there are some bugs I’m really happy. However, right when the app was done and in review I felt my motivation leave. I stopped achieving any measurable progress and I quickly realized, ”I’m frozen in place, my energy isn’t freeing me.” I really struggled with how to fix it.

By Wednesday I had enough. I vowed to fix this problem. That was my only real task to complete on Wednesday. My normal techniques weren’t succeeding. They should have, though. Then I was honest with myself. In my moment of honesty I learned I wasn’t being honest with myself. I was failing to really employ the techniques that have worked for over a year.

My strategy is to lay out detailed tasks I must do the following day. I was doing this, though. Doing it in the most minimum and basic sense possible. Every task was vague and so poorly defined there was no measurement of success. Since anything could fit the criteria it did and then I would inevitably throw it away because it wasn’t good enough. This went on for a few days.

This is what I took away:

  1. Be honest with yourself always. Listen and obey that feeling of inadequacy.
  2. Rapid course correction is extremely important.
  3. The early you identify feelings of failure the quicker you can remedy them.
  4. Have well defined goals.
  5. It’s better to break a chain than to be unproductive and keep it.

In the two days since I’ve redoubled and clarified my tasks, my productivity predictably improved. I was been back on target and moving quickly again. Today, however, I didn’t get all my tasks done. I certainly had reasons. Had I thought enough about today I wouldn’t have committed to so much. But I did, and now my chain is broken.

I’m not discouraged because I’m motivated to improve, and most importantly I have developed a system to keep me focused and motivated. It works for me. I’m very happy with how much I achieve. My achievements are worth more than an unbroken streak.

Sometimes it’s best to fail so we remember how far we’ve come. Doing something 100 days in a row is great, but I briefly forgot how much focus this takes.

The bit about the dog sleds is something I read once, I think in a Jack London book. I hope it’s true, if not let me know.