2014 November Priorities

You can do anything, but not everything. - David Allen

You can probably see that I do a lot of things lately and my plans for next month are always long and ambitious. I commit publicly to them so that I feel accountable but recently more important for me is following my Priority List during the day. What is a Priority List? I want to start from the beginning.

My interests go from programming and reading books to learning to play guitar and how to draw. How do I make progress in any of them? I have a strong feeling of  stretching too thin and doing too many things at the same time. There are days when I can do them all and days when I hardly have time for one or two. Am I making any progress? Am I wasting my time?

I strongly believe in Habits that Leo Babauta writes on his blog http://zenhabits.net/. The idea is to not think about what I should do, just follow the good habits. When I have to think consciously I often fail and do something stupid like read 'news' or facebook. I want to fight with that.

I have read a new Quora article from Oliver Emberton: If you want to follow your dream, you have to say no to all alternatives. How true is this notion?. It sounds so reasonable that it is hard to not to try to apply it to my activities.

Watch out for ‘other things that you also want’. They will feel comforting, harmless, and automatic. They are deadly. One new direction will quarter what you can accomplish.

But how to do it? I have so many of them...
Inspiration come from The Empty Container By Leo Babauta. Idea is very simple. Remove everything and add things consciously.

In my case it was even worse. I had a long list of things I want to do, but from that list I tended to pick the easiest ones. The ones that were supposed to be done after I finish the important ones. Something was not working. I have decided to create the priority list of what I do every day to fight with that and in the process shorten my list and be more focused.

But what to add? How to pick important ones?

Another article may help here: How to debug your brain. The thing about important things is that they are not urgent. These are things that will help me in the long time and benefit my health, well being and my career.

Fortunately, at that time, I stumbled upon really good article from Scott H. Young: The Stupidity of Cutting Sleep. Cutting sleep is one of those things I do a lot. This is stupid. Sleep has so many benefits that I should make it my highest priority to sleep for 8 hours. This makes my first new Habit.

1. 8 hours of sleep

Going this route of importance. I learned the hard way the importance of health. My body reminds me of this from time to time and if am going to live for another 30 years then I have to take care of it. Interestingly, exercise is much more important in the process of learning than I thought, so it was easy to make exercises from therapy I was going to recently my second priority.

2. Exercise & Stretch

I was reading a lot about Meditation and how it benefits us on many blogs and books. Most people think that it is something strange for hippies, but in practice it is the exercise for our brain. It has solid scientific foundation and really long list of proven benefits. There are many books about it like this new one: How to be 10% Happier. Or the ones I have reviewed: Your Brain at Work and Search Inside Yourself. It takes only 5 minutes a day for me right now so it generates really high value for so little of my time.

3. Meditate

One thing that I want to preserve and grow is my technical skills. I think the best advice here is Write Code Every Day by John Resig. He writes a lot of open-source code on Github and thinks about his Public Contributions graph: https://github.com/jeresig as an easy check if he is doing it. I want to create a similar graph on my Github. I am fine with committing code samples from books that I read, and really simple contributions. Not all days are perfect and keeping the chain of commits is more important to me than making every commit non-trivial. I feel that I read a lot about iOS and learned a bit of Go-lang because of this new habit, so it is pretty easy to put it high on my list.

4. Write Code Every Day

The next is hard. I have two really good candidates here. For about two years now,  I started to read more, that thing alone helped me think about my productivity more and widened my perspectives. On the other hand, I want to learn how to play the guitar. It only makes sense to practice every day. At the same time, I can read a book in the tram during commute. I would say they share the same importance but which is really more important? I would say reading, but I can do it during commute and a missing day of practice on the guitar makes it really hard to grow my skills. Thinking about it made it a little easier.

5. Practice Guitar

Reading a book in tram is single best thing how I can use that time. Having it on #6 state that I want to read a book during the weekends as well.

6. Read a book
Next one is in the similar category as fourth. Learning English. To communicate at work and to keep this blog running I have to practice my english and learn new vocabulary all the time. Right now, I am using Duolingo for speaking and Memrise to learn new vocabulary.

7. Duolingo
8. Practice all on Memrise

Maybe they are not so important. As Oliver in one of his articles put them in last list item next to 'Ignore':

Ignore. It’s rude, unprofessional and often utterly necessary. There are people you won’t find time to reply to. There are requests you will allow yourself to forget. You can be slow to do things like tidy up, pay bills or open mail. The world won't fall apart. The payoff is you get done what matters.

From: What are the most effective and proven time management techniques?

Unfortunately, not cleaning your house makes it a mess. Cleaning it from time to time, makes it a really long process - for example taking many hours on Saturday. It breaks my daily habits and it is just boring. You can no longer do all the things you do every day because you had to clean your house. Right now, I am experimenting with the idea of cleaning a bit every day. It can be something small, but it really makes things better and easier. I am happier following this small rule that I was previously so there is a good chance that it would stick for longer.

9. Wash Dishes
10. Clean something for 15 minutes

I use Pocket for storing and reading articles at my convenience. Unfortunately, this list easily grows and it is discouraging when you have 3 thousand articles in there. I happened to me and I want to prevent it from happening ever again. My new daily habit:

11. Read 3 articles from Pocket

At the end of the day, it is a good idea to think about the day, reflect what was good and bad about it. Second thing that I do just after that is planning my next day, it is supposed to let my subconscious prepare for the next day. This is another lifehack from Learning How to Learn. Most of the time it is really short task and I started to like it.

12. Diary
13. Create Todo List for Tomorrow

Extra: #

I should note here that the technique that helps me to do a lot of those things is Pomodoro. Most of them take one or two Pomodoro. I plan to write a blog post about it so stay tuned.


There are also days when I easily manage to do all of the above. On those days, it seems like a good idea to go into other activities. It makes those days a little more interesting.


  1. Learn how to Draw
  2. Learn how to draw PixelArt
  3. Vocal Exercise

I went through all my previous activities and added it back. Had I failed?
Maybe. The thing is, right now I really try to respect the order of those things. I no longer sacrifice sleep or exercise to play on the guitar. I am also ok with skipping things on the end of the list if it would force me to cut on sleep. Of course, I still value the power of habits, so I really try to do all of them.

What about themes of my activities? Why am I going to for iOS, games, Go, Music and Drawing at the same time? Maybe I should focus only on one of them? I don't know.

What gives me hope is that many ideas are connected somehow. In Learning How to Learn one of the most important ideas was that we can connect ideas from different disciplines and it can actually help us learn faster and easier.

There is also something similar at the end of the article I mentioned at first:

Line up your bumblebees. You may not be able to create the next Google, cure cancer and land on Mars at the same time. But you might be able to simultaneously become, say, a successful and athletic CEO. Success and fitness can be complementary goals: a healthier person can be a better leader. They’re like two bumblebees, pushing in the same direction, and stronger for it.

From: If you want to follow your dream, you have to say no to all alternatives. How true is this notion?

If you look at Bio of the author: Oliver Emberton you may find that he is doing a lot of things as well:

Oliver Emberton
Founder of Silktide, writer, pianist, programmer, artist and general busy bee.

I think that learning different disciplines can help me be much better at what I do and whatever I might want to do in the future. Right now, I am still giving myself time to learn.

Chen believes that he is "too young" to make a game with a strong message (...)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thatgamecompany

I feel the same idea is right for me right now. There is also a new essay by Paul Graham called Before the Startup that is about similar idea. I really think that I should spend more of my time learning right now than trying to create something big and important. I should make sure that I would be prepared to follow up with whatever would inspire me int the future and it is hard to say what skills and knowledge might be handy at that time. For now, learning seems like a good idea, no matter what I am learning.

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