Notes on Projects, Calendars, and Planning as they Pertain to Busyness (Part 3)

Coherency vs Interruption

A normal calendar has the basic function of visualizing your time and the hours of the day as space in a grid. If there’s something you want or have to do, and you’re a relatively organized person, you find an open slot and fill it.

There are however, other variables which normal calendars don’t automatically factor in, which productive people do implicitly. For instance, the number of concurrent threads one can manage, the cost of context switching, and considering an activity’s overhead.

In the comic, these other variables are all sort of visualized at once as size and position.

If this were a visualization of projects, we can safely assume the block size doesn’t simply represent the time to complete a task, but to how all the factors add up.

Each person will have their own thresholds which would determine the size of a project block, but I bet there’s a generalizable baseline from which a person can either gently expand or contract.

Calendar Events as Interruptions

A few years ago some friends and I had the idea that a calendar can quickly feel like a series of interruptions. In some cases, even the things we want to do on the calendar might feel like interruptions.

The challenge is to try to frame these events within a longer timeframe.

However, the assumption is that people can hold long timeframe goals and not feel as though the day-to-day activities have also somehow become distractions.

Incorporating Ideas From Budgeting and Project Management

For some perspective, I’ve started thinking about the tools for financial budgeting, estimating, and project management as analogs to dealing with attention.

  • There are different budgeting approaches. What are some of the inputs for budgeting time effectively? 
  • When creating estimates, we might factor in buffers as shorthand for admin work, for instance. Would you factor in 40% time buffer for your time estimates? (eg: related to one’s stress tolerance. A lower tolerance means greater buffer)
  • Considering all the things on a person’s weekly to-do: what is their work in progress (WIP)? How many goal-threads can we manage at once?

My Personal Experience Budgeting

One of the early problems I’d had with budgeting involved ‘over analyzing’ my budget and getting too granular.

What worked best was simplifying the approach. Simple, I set a single savings goal.

I decided how much I wanted to save by a specific point in time, made sure the monthly savings wasn’t eating in to “operating costs” like rent and utilities, gave myself a little weekly wiggle room (we’re better at managing scarcity than abundance), and put regular increments into savings.

Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.

What worked for me was to budget around my goal and to think about that goal first, rather than around my operating costs.

I knew that by X date I would have $Y, my operating costs would be covered, and that I would intuitively take care of the rest.

It was incredibly motivating and I saved a bunch of money.

Re-Introducing the Context of Busyness

Yet, I know I don’t always think about my time and attention this way.

I don’t know what my “operating costs” are in terms of time and attention.

To budget my dollars I know I need a goal, and I need to pay out money for things like rent and insurance.

But where am I paying out time and attention? and to what end? What is the goal?

What involving time and attention is required for me to have a healthy mind and body?