Read Time: 5 minutes
“We make the unconscious conscious by examining our patterns.” –James Hollis
Nothing has brought me closer to the naked truth that I am going to die than psychedelics. And like clockwork, give me a few days, and I start treating my time as if I’m immortal. There is no other explanation that justifies my binge watching netflix, or mindless scrolling through social media, other than me forgetting my mortality.
I’m lucky enough to have a life purpose and life mission that I believe in more deeply than Patriot fans believe in Tom Brady or Trump believes in himself. My purpose is to help people heal themselves and my current life mission is to create an online therapeutic tool that is more effective than classical psychotherapy or pharmaceutical interventions at treating mild and moderate depression.
My silent frustration for years has been that I know I will die, I know what I want to do with my finite time, and yet I know I waste significant amounts of my day.
Getting to Know Thyself
I meditate, I journal daily, and I periodically explore myself with psychedelics. All of these have helped, but there is a new tool I’ve started using that I feel is changing my life more rapidly and consistently than any of these other techniques.
It is recording what I do every hour I’m awake. Don’t run away. When I first heard about this I instantly was like, “No, that is too much.” Read on, my approach is simple and effective.
The Treasure in The Swamp
I’ve known about this technique for months. I ignored it because I thought it was too much work.
Well, about a month ago, I got sicker then I had ever been. It lasted for 3 weeks, I lost 12 pounds, and the inactivity caused joint swelling. I was on a bed for 3 days, the toilet 8 days, and crutches 5 days.
I’ve never been inactive that long and my mind was starting to go a little mad. I don’t know what the moment was that triggered it, but I started tracking what I was doing in Google calendar. It felt like I was doing something productive.
The recording started at the end of my illness. If I had started it a week before, you’d see 12 bathroom breaks per day.
As you can see, I was watching a lot of TV. I normally watch almost none (or at least I thought this before I started tracking my behavior.) And you can see that you don’t need to be insanely detailed. Just approximate at the beginning.
I like to play the game of, “why did this happen?” I’ve had a cushy easy life, but relative to what I’ve experienced, I suffered those 3 weeks, but honestly, if this tracking technique becomes a habit, I think the illness was worth it.
It has had that sort of impact on my life.
The Science of Measuring
“What gets measured gets managed.” –Peter Drucker
There is an interesting psychological phenomena called reactivity. When an individual begins tracking some aspect of their behavior, if the tracking is accurate and consistent, just the act of tracking, the metric improves in the direction the individual wants.
If you begin to track your weight daily, and you do nothing else, statistically, you are likely to lose weight over time. Same goes for smoking less, running more, etc.
Disclaimer: This effect does not happen to everyone, but its chance of occurring is statistically significant. It is my speculation that in order for this effect to happen, the individual needs to know what actions ought to be taken in order to achieve their goal. I think the tracking causes us to make small choices every day that improve the metric we’re tracking. If the individual genuinely doesn’t know how to act to accomplish this, I’d suspect the effect to not appear.
Once I started tracking my behavior, the amount I worked on something that helped me moved towards my purpose and mission increased almost 3-4 hours a day.
How I Measure: Tracking Level 1
I use Google Calendar. It is free and simple to use. I track throughout the day as I go. At first I tried tracking my entire day each evening but I found that I couldn’t remember accurately.
I don’t try to get too detailed. I put the major activity I did for that 30 minute block.
I use red to indicate wasteful behavior, green for health related behaviors, blue for relaxing but not wasteful behavior, and gold for behavior that I see as moving me in the direction of my purpose and mission. (Notice I mark talks with significant people in my life as gold, your relationships are as important as your mission.)
Give this a try for two weeks and see what happens.
I shared this on my facebook page and the feedback has been amazing.
Some Questions to Maximize The Benefit
What is your life purpose? (Hint: you get to choose this.)
What is your life Mission? (Hint: you get to choose this.)
What is the most important skill for you to hone everyday in pursuit of your purpose and mission?
Where do you deceive yourself? (I thought I didn’t watch a lot of tv but once I started tracking I realized the last 3-4 hours of the day I’m binging netflix. I was completely in denial about this.)
You know you are going to die, how do you want to spend your finite time?