| David Gane

Embracing The Monotonous Schedule

I missed yesterday's blog post. I had something half-written but by the time I realized that I hadn't published anything, it was already late and my brain was barely functioning. I decided to not worry and publish two things today.

However, the incident had me thinking about the importance of the monotonous schedule.

What do you mean monotonous?

I've said for a while that I am the busiest unemployed person I know. I've got Counios and Gane, Swift, Flowing (No longer available), family stuff (husband, father, son), personal stuff (mental, physical, spiritual), and an upcoming teaching commitment.

To keep track of all this, I've listed all my roles and ongoing projects to review daily to try and stop things slipping through the cracks. I scan it and add to my list of todos and calendar appointments, and make sure to that they repeat daily or weekly into my far future.

So, every morning when I wake up, I already have a list of 10+ things that need to be done, not allowing for any carryovers that may occur from the day before.

Not only does it keep this whole process keep me busy, it becomes very monotonous.

Little Bit at a Time

So, why keep to such a tedious schedule (certainly isn't to be spontaneous or interesting)?

To answer this question, I think of Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird. The title comes from a story about her brother who had a report about birds due the next day and he was overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task. Lamott remembers her father's advice to her brother, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

I have things I want to do in life. Most of them are pretty simple: live healthy, keep active mentally, be creative, spend time with my wife and kids. But they are immense tasks that take time.

The best solution to all this is to chip away at it a little bit each day. I exercise, I walk, I read, I write, I make time for family fun nights or game nights, or dates with my wife. Day after day, I do it again and again. Somedays I miss, but if I don't leave it for too long and fall behind, it doesn't fall by the wayside.

Eventually, in time, I will get stronger, (hopefully) live longer, finish reading that novel, write that novel, and spend the time I have with my family. By doing little chunks of everything each week and day, I end up doing a lot.


The other effect of the monotonous schedule is that it means you actually have to show up and do it.

I committed to trying to have something on this blog every weekday. Yes, yesterday I failed. Overall though, I'e remained fairly consistent.

Ang tries to write once a week (usually around Tuesday), so that means I only have to show up four times. One of those is a links list, which tends to be a little easier, but overall I have to think of something to say.

I've started to prep the night before, writing out five things I might write about but I'm always willing to toss it aside on what seems most present on my mind (this is one of them).

It tends to be a challenge, coming up with something on a regular basis, that is useful, relevant, or interesting. The trouble is, this hectic schedule makes it nearly impossible to get all the spelling and grammar, and I have no clue what really works, and I worry about straying from whatever it is you really like.[1]

Yet, I show up over and over, chipping away at this big stone, trying to figure all this out because I made myself accountable to this process. As Amy Cuddy says, "Fake it, until you are it."

What Does this Mean to Others?

In the end though, what I do doesn't really matter to anyone but me and me alone.

However, as I prep for my upcoming class, I think about these schedules for my students. Each time I teach, I see them going insane at the end of the semester, scrambling to finish their scripts. Yet, if every one of them showed up to their computer and wrote two pages of a script a day, they would have a feature length script in 40 days (I set the limit at 80 pages). That's the first draft of a final assignment done before the halfway point of the semester.

Same goes for people who are out of school but say they want to write a book. If they show up and write two pages a day, they can finish a first draft in less than a year.

Or, they could read more books by committing to 5, 10, or 20 pages every day.

Or show up to exercise for 30 minutes every couple of days.

Why Don't We Just Do It?

Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, says that to overcome this resistance towards action, we must have the patience and fortitude to face the fears that hold us back.

These fears can be best characterized as the possibility of the unknown. Either we worry about what might happen if we take action, or we worry about the possibility that we may actually succeed.

A big hole opened up in my life when quit standing in my own way and started writing after 15+ years of wasting my time. Suddenly I had the time and mental energy to focus on more productive things, like spending time with my family.

I also know for myself, there is also a constant battle of time, as well as laziness.

My other enemy is distraction. Why do the boring tasks when I can surf the internet, watch television or YouTube or Netflix, or play a video game. All these options offer instant gratification and reward.

This is the biggest threat to the monotonous schedule. There is no immediate payoff. It feels good to be productive, but its also hard work, and you don't see any reward for a long time. Worse yet, when the reward comes, you face the risk of having already moved past it.

How Does One Embrace the Monotonous Schedule?

  1. Think long term. Figure out your end goals. The best monotonous schedules should focus on you achieving what you are passionate about and what you really want out of life. Most likely these goals will be so big, it will take a lifetime to achieve.

  2. Get a calendar and todo list. You may be a better person than me, but I need constant prompts. I try to schedule anything that comes across my desk and make sure to give myself daily and weekly reminders on everything. I switched from my paper system to the computer so that I could automate most of repeated entries.

  3. Be easy on yourself. You'll miss some days, you'll screw up, or you might completely forget about it. Let it go. Move on. Plan for tomorrow. Remember that you aren't playing a short term game. You should be doing some of these things 10+ years from now.

  4. Monotonous doesn't mean boring. Just because you commit to a schedule, doesn't mean you can't embrace adventure. One of my favourite things about watching Casey Neistat's daily blogs is that even on a hectic day, he tends to go for skateboard rides or trips to the beach to film sunsets. Getting your daily routine done gives you the room to do the things that really matter.

  1. Or being a little self-righteous for its own good—yeah, I'm looking at you, Mr. Blog Post. ↩︎

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