Don’t Reschedule; Commit or Cancel

The world doesn’t actually care if you do the things on your calendar.

It’ll keep spinning either way.

In fact, in many ways it would prefer that you just didn’t.

For, every time you do – the world changes a little bit. ‘Doing’ starts an chain reaction of cause and effect unsettling the natural course of things – entropy.

There are consequences to inaction. If you don’t pay your rent or mortgage for long enough – eventually you’ll lose the roof over your head. Stop improving the relationship with your spouse and eventually you won’t have one. Stop filling up the gas tank in your car – and eventually you’re stuck.

These are hyperbolic examples, yet their lesson can be applied to both smaller more banal tasks as well as your most meaningful projects.

If you don’t work on them – there’s very little immediate downside. Long-term? That’s a completely different question. But, short term – likely nothing.

Right now, admit to yourself that there will be commitments you made, commitments that are clearly identified, well estimated, perfectly aligned with your energy that you simply don’t do.

Instead, you end up running errands, talking with co-workers, taking an extra-long shower, cleaning your office, resolving some completely unexpected emergency, or attempting to capturing some unexpected opportunity. Or you’re simply binge-watching ‘Nailed It’ on Netflix.

So, what do we do now that we we’ve admitted we’re not doing the thing we committed to?

First stop and take a breath.

Next consider why you didn’t.

What about the activity wasn’t compelling to you enough to simply start at the designated time? Most likely, it was an activity you weren’t fully committed to, that you didn’t fully see the outcome of the activity fulfilling one of your most meaningful goals.

In short, it’s a commitment you made for someone else – not for yourself. And because it wasn’t for you – anything, absolutely anything was more fulfilling and more significant than this thing you scheduled.

So, why did it end up on your calendar in the first place? At what point in the history of the commitment could you have made a different answer – said ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’, delegated it, resolved it in the moment – to prevent it from ever being scheduled in the first place?

Think of that moment, visualize it like it’s happening again. Feel yourself agreeing to the commitment. As you do, ask, “What negative outcome am I trying to avoid by saying ‘Yes’?” followed by “What part of my identity is afraid of this activity?” (For it’s your identity that kept you from starting in this moment).

Once you have these answers, you’ll know which of the following actions to take:

1. Delete the activity off your calendar and completely forget about it. That’s right, you’re obviously not excited about this activity enough to start – so, say ‘No’ to it now and forever. Just delete it, write in what you did instead – and continue on with your day. If it likely will return, take a moment and determine who you’ll delegate it to. This is ‘When as a trigger’ that Patrick and I talk about in ‘The Power of When’ – When this task returns – I’ll delegate it to John.

  1. Reschedule it. If upon revisiting the significance behind the task and your reasons for not starting it this time you realize that this is still of value, your punishment is to reschedule it. This punishment is felt three ways; going through the next two weeks and finding a spot for this activity you didn’t do the first time, re-evaluating and rescheduling all the other commitments in its way, and running the risk of blowing it off a second time.
  2. Do it with whatever amount of time remains.Yea, rescheduling it is a horrible option – you’re moving a bunch of other commitments around to squeeze in one you obviously don’t want to do in the first place. So, rather than have Future You pissed at you (again!) take this time, whatever remains, and crank it out. Complete as much of it as you can, knowing that this is all the time you have, whatever value you can create in the next 14 minutes – that’s what this commitment gets. This stress, urgency, panic, is the price you paid for committing to something you shouldn’t have. Wherever you land when time is up that’s where you land. If by some miracle you complete it – you are not the hero. You are the villain – you took a commitment you shouldn’t have, you added greater stress to your life, and you crowded out something else that far more meaningful and significant, while delivering a low quality outcome.

Pick one.

Rescheduling the commitment is the worst of three options.

The easiest option is to simply admit the commitment wasn’t actually significant in the first place and delete it from your calendar.

“Rescheduling kicks off a chain reaction of comparing all the upcoming commitments by their significance, energy, and time to find the next best date & time for a commitment that obviously wasn’t the most significant thing when it came around the first time.”



Which means the rescheduled thing is never the most important thing. Why would it be? To add to the problem, the commitment has already been canceled, forgotten, or ignored once, so the chances of it being canceled, forgotten, or ignored a second time are more than double. Then there’s the issue of ensuring everyone has the new meeting details.

Don’t reschedule without adjusting the nature of the appointment to be aligned with the level significance for everyone involved.

This can be done two ways:

  • increasing the significance (stronger positive outcomes, greater risk minimization) of the effort
  • decreasing the resolution of the meeting. For example, if the initial meeting was a 60 minute face-to-face, propose a 20-minute phone call. If it was a phone call, propose addressing the entire issue via email, or suggest request an introduction to someone in a better position to fulfill this commitment.

Both of these methods of changing the effort’s nature transform it into a new substantially different thing. So it’s not a reschedule – it’s a more accurately-sized commitment that can be better judged against the rest of your scheduled commitments in terms of significance, energy, and time.

Of course, this assumes the change in nature still passes the significance threshold for you and your collaborators. It could be that you’re secretly relieved the effort isn’t important. In which case – delete it happily and ignore the reschedule request and determine how you’re going to maximize this newly found time.

All of this leads us back to where we started: Don’t Reschedule; Cancel or Commit

In the Days After

I’m grateful for all those – medical professionals, emergency workers, school administrators, governors, etc – working continuously to contain the COVID-I9 global pandemic we’re currently in.

With so many activities, events, and businesses shuttered indefinitely, in the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering, “What does the world look like after containment?”

Which takes me to one of my favorite tools for thinking through effects and consequences, McLuhan’s Tetrad. While McLuhan developed the Tetrad tool to think through how media changes us, I’ve found it works for anything phenomenon impacting society at large. Like the Myers-Briggs, it’s more effective when statements are articulated in their most positive manner.

The Tetrad asks four questions;

What does it enhance?
What does it make obsolete?
What does it retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
What does it flip into when pushed to extremes?

What does COVID-19 enhance?
– Depression and anxiety disorders related to lack of face-to-face social contact.
– Brand-name universities offering online high school curriculum
– Corporations’ level of comfort with the majority of their labor force being remote
– Companies no longer providing computers to their employees
– Depression in commercial real estate – esp office buildings.
– Tribalism and mistrust of others
– Tightening of pre-existing social networks
– Delivery services
– Corporate adoption of robotics and automation to ensure higher sanitation standards & reduce variable labor force availability.
– Climate change advocacy (sudden drop in global pollution levels creating higher air and water quality)
– Solo hobbies & sports – esp inside sports (e.g. knitting, playing music, homebrewing, yoga, cooking, yo-yo-ing, karate)
– Membership- or subscription-based business models
– Home exercise equipment sales (e.g. Peloton)
– Self-stable and freezer-friendly food sales (maybe the US now gets shelf-stable milk)
JustWalkOut by Amazon
– Demand for box seats at stadiums and theaters
– Single-payer health care in the US
– popularity of eSports
– Disney divesting ESPN

What does COVID-19 make obsolete?
– Casual physical contact with strangers
– Business models based on confining strangers for a period of time (stadiums, theaters, cruise ships, airplanes, public transportation, professional sports)
– Business models based on individual, retail sales
– Globalization
– Social pressure to attend events that you’d rather not attend.
– work from home is no longer a differentiating HR benefit, it’s an expected part of the employment contract.
– The decline of church-going (esp Catholic) in the US, and by extension the Boy Scouts.
– General seating at stadiums and theatres.
– Minimalism
– checkout clerks
– Co-working spaces

What does COVID-19 retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
– “The milkman”, local businesses making regular deliveries in a localized area.
– a need to ‘stock-up’ when something is available, for it may not be tomorrow (pantries, root cellars, and chest freezers)
Victory Gardens
Speakeasys (for dining and social experiences and gyms [1, 2], not just drinking) like this.
– Drive-in Movie Theaters
Party lines (always on video multi-party video conferences)
“Back to the Land” movement
– Offices (as opposed to cubicles or open-plan spaces)

– investing in front yards over backyards

What does cultural phenomena does COVID-19 flip when pushed to extremes?
– Continuous monitoring of individuals’ health in all locations accessible to the general public (e.g. fever monitoring in convenience stores)
– Isolationism at micro and macro levels
– Every neighborhood is “The Village
– Redundancy in supply chains, leading to greater expense and under utilized capacity.

Choose Paper

If you wanted to ensure it lasted for 150 years – you’d choose paper.

As amazing as our current electronic technologies are – despite their strengths – terribly, terribly ephemeral. The code the worked yesterday isn’t support today. The processors of – five years ago, ten years ago – are brought to their knees by the computational complexity and presumed processor capabilities of today’s software. The runtime environments required by the digital creations I manifest as a University student not only do not exist – computers of today don’t even recognize the file types.

Perhaps it’s good that my chances of becoming a world-renowned graphic designer are quite slim. For if they were higher, and exhibits celebrating my early digital work were to be held, recovering that early work would be a significant undertaking. Even today. Unlike like my drawings and pastels – for those seem to be holding up just fine. I looked at them just the other day. The same day I went through the box in my office containing 25 years worth of my sketchbooks. All the paper – just as I remembered it. All the sketches just as they were the last time I looked at them.

I didn’t need to convert them into a different file format or upgrade the software before I opened each sketchbook and revisited each page. I simply opened it. I simply turned the page. No need to for anything more. The paper persists.

One story at a time, I’m writing down the stories of my life.

In a book.

A high-quality, hardcover book.

One story at a time, handwritten on paper in the book.

A book I want to exist for a century and a half, if not longer. The book will go into the box with all the other family stories and photos – all of which are on paper. Stories and photos that – while they may not be on their original paper – are on paper.

Sure, I could type out these stories into this site just as I’m writing this. I enjoy writing here. But there’s no chance this site will be around in more than a century. I even have a hard time envisioning it living another quarter century. Even if it does, that will mean countless technology migrations, not just server migrations, but also application layer and database migrations. All of these changes requiring regression tests – however humble.

Somewhere out on the internet there’s a story describing the problem of archiving electronic art. In it, the author describes the process. The process of picking the ideal computer for perpetually running the archived software, completely isolated from the rest of the internet. They described the need to prevent any of the bits of software from ever updating, from the intended application, all middleware, to the operating system, everything. All of which will ensure that this singularly valuable bit of software can continue to provide value for generations to come.

Unless those generations have something other than electrical service expected by the computer’s power supply.

Then – poof. It’s gone.

Last month, I brewed a batch beer. This particular recipe was originally used by a British brewery circa 1868. It was included in a book collecting a number of British and German beer recipes from 1850-1950. Theses recipes were extracted from the actual brewers logs of the time. Brewers logs that were written on paper in books and shared in-house to ensure a consistent product from batch to batch.

Am I using the same ingredients the Tetley Brewery did 147 years ago? Highly doubtful. Today’s grains, hops, and yeast are far more optimized for brewing than they were a century ago. But, since I have the beer’s characteristics; alcohol, bitterness, color, clarity, along with specified grain, hops, and yeast, I can get very close to recreating this beer. As can anyone else.

I don’t necessarily need their equipment or their process for creating fire. That’s all changed. I need the identifying, distinguishing characteristics. The same distinguishing characteristics that were originally written down 150 years ago on paper to help the next brewer on the shift.


Ongoing List of Underused German Words

Verschlimmbesserung: An improvement that makes something worse.

Doch: An expression for indicating an outcome occurred that was counter to the supplied evidence. Loosely translates to, “and yet” or “although I thought otherwise.” Even more delightfully – it can be and is used sarcastically.

My Ideal Day

5:00a: Awake, brush, floss, situps, pushups
5:15a: 5-mile run
6:00a: 20-minute meditation
6:20a: Start coffee, shower, shave, dress well
6:30a: High-protein breakfast
6:45a: Morning ideation
7:00a: Breakfast with the kids
8:30a: Write for 30 minutes
9:00a: Do the most important work of the day
1:00p: Lunch meeting w/ a coaching client @ a new restaurant or brewery
2:00p: Process new messages (email, post, voicemail)
2:30p: Choice time; kubb, nap, art museum, more writing, cooking, brewing, make art
4:30p: Daily review
5:00p: Make and have dinner as a family
6:30p: Walk with the family around the neighborhood, put kids to bed.
8:00p: Time together with Jen
9:30p: Journal writing & preview of tomorrow
10:00p: Bed

knuckles

mother has a hard time texting
i can see it
in her knuckles
she wants
someone else to handle these things