I had just come back from Telangana. Volunteering was over. The gap year had resumed, and I was watching Youtube. “Self-discipline is freedom… from yourself” was the title of one of the videos in my Youtube recommends. It was at this point that I had watched Youtube for four hours or so.
I wasn’t doing it actively or consciously. I didn’t watch that video. I’m not even sure if I’ll watch it or what it’s content is all about. However, that one sentence hit the right chord, and I immediately closed the Youtube app. That’s when I started scheduling things in a calendar again.
Days become weeks; weeks become years
(The subheading is a – slightly changed – line from Hopium’s Dreamers, a song that goes deep into the disconnect between saying and doing things. In fact, I recommend listening to this before or after you’ve read this post.)
I’m not a fan of planning, but there’s a concept that has resonated with me since the last year of college. It goes something along lines of – make your days worth it and your years will fall into place.
It’s an odd idea at first, and I’m not sure if it checks out. Yet. However, I’ve still been living off a calendar. I don’t follow it strictly. It’s just a rough outline of my day. It is in that detail where it is different from how I used to schedule things (and talk about them) in 2017.
I’ve scheduled most of my mornings with Freelectics, something I’ll talk about in yet another post. Then, there’s a little gap followed by Coursework. Coursework often stretches more than the four hours I’ve allocated to it. Then, I have Reading late in the evening for thirty minutes. At night, I have tasks like Do Finances and so on which involves just tracking how much I spent that day.
Of course, I do more than those four things each day. However, these four serve as checkpoints to let me control days. I take walks, meet friends, enjoy coffee, play games, have time with my family, work on personal projects and so on. It’s a mixed bag of things.
The four checkpoints help me make sure I did three things every day. I’ll take a page out of my notebook (here: Instagram feed) and tell you what those three things are:
I have realised that there are only three things you need to do to make every day count – do something that gets your body moving, do something that gets your mind working, and do something that gets your heart beating. You only need to do three things per day to have a good one. Once you have these three down for the day, you can do anything else if you have the time. The key is getting those three down. Everything else is just extra credit.
(link to the original post and a half-decent photo of a cafe)
I see these three things as essential outputs each day. Freelectics and walks get my body moving. Coursework and reading get my mind working. Doing anything else from the rest of the list gets my heart beating.
Modularity and breaking it down
In programming, we call this modularity. Modularity breaks a more significant problem into several smaller sub-programs. Just humour me and follow the jargon for a little while. These subparts are broken into further smaller programs until we have specific tasks that can be accomplished independently.
I think that concept applies to life as well. When we view our lives, we often see them in years. We talk about how a year was extremely stressful or how a particular year was the best one of our lives. We fail to recognise our days with only a vague memory of the drudgery.
The way modularity relates to this is that when we have modules, we can use them again and again. So, if doing things a particular way gave you a balanced day, you can repeat it. If talking to a specific person riles you up, perhaps, cut them off for a few days and see if that happens again. When you break life into modular days, most problems get shortened.
The focus shifts from getting a career in Data Science next year to learning how to write this one segment of code perfectly. It shifts from being healthy and in good shape to just making sure I did some exercise today. You stop focusing on completing 24 books this year to I’ll read a book for thirty minutes today.
It’s an age-old maxim when you come to think of it. Large life goals are overwhelming and often, impossible and since the idea is to be content in life. Instead of looking it at as years, I have started looking at life as days. If it was a bad day, it ends there, and the next one is a new start.
I talked about this last year as well. The idea was to wish people, happy new day instead of good morning. This approach is a more mellowed down one as compared to that. Excuse me for that; I was in crazy love when I wrote that one.
If I’ve learned anything in the recent months, it is two fundamental rules. The first is that life is not sunshine and rainbows and there will always be major, unexpected hinderances right around the corner. The second is that you can still get by most of it if you have a strong foundation – to work as much as I laugh and laugh as much as I walk.
The idea to focus on days strengthens that foundation. I’m not sure if I’ll always be able to live life this way or whether this is a short-term stint. In fact, I’m not even sure if this works in the long-term, but I’ve been pretty content lately. I’m glad and very grateful for that.
Um, We Started with Self-Discipline, right?
All this talk about modularity and breaking days down and scheduling and we’re back to where we began: Self-discipline.
I realised it is effortless to make a calendar. It is tough to say No.
That’s where I think the idea of “self-discipline is freedom from yourself” comes in. It is then when you have to realise what is more important to you. We’ve all watched countless TED talks that talk about instant gratification. We’ve watched videos, and we’ve read articles.
That’s precisely what we’re designed to do – find more comfortable ways out to feel the same things.
Reading about productivity makes us feel that we are more productive. That is precisely why I decided to stop posting on productivity regularly as well as reading productivity porn on Medium.
I know this article feels hypocritical when I say that but it was recently pointed out to me that always talking about doing, even if you do all of it, feels extremely annoying. So, I’m trying to find a middle ground.
It all comes down to asking yourself one simple question – which of these two adds to the person I think I am? As long as you figure that out, make a call that aligns with your current value system and goals, you’ll always be content. I think that it is about being conscious about the little decisions you make every day.
Often, I find myself with a controller in my hand, playing way too much Fortnite only to have my phone say it’s time to read. The accomplishment of completing ten battle pass goals in Fortnite is quite similar to the accomplishment of completing a few programming assignments. Trust me; I know this through experience.
In the last month, I realised I slept better when I chose the task on the calendar over an extra half-hour of Fortnite because the whole point of that task being in the schedule and Fortnite not being in it makes said task more critical. If I don’t abide by it, there’s no point in saying that reading is a priority to me.
If I choose Fortnite over say Outliers (which is a beautiful book) for three days straight, then Outliers isn’t important to me. It is at this time where I should make a conscious decision about whether I want to change the book, stop reading altogether or turn the system off and get to it.
I think the following quote by Joshua Fields Millburn of the Minimalists says more about self-discipline than anything else ever will.
Your priorities are what you do each day. Everything else is simply a should.
– Joshua Fields Millburn