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Something that I feel like you have to master at some point in life, usually sometime around high school or university, is how to schedule your time and keep commitments. How to take a large, demanding task, or a whole bunch of small small demanding tasks, and break them down so that they all get done in an appropriate order and timeframe. It's incredibly vital because this skill remains useful for your entire life - in my opinion being able to break down any task into achievable chunks gets to 75% of the way to being able to accomplish anything you want.

There are quite a large number of strategies and techniques to become good at this skill, most of which I've observed my friends and acquaintances trying out. There are the obviously bad, like waiting until the last week before the deadline and taking imported stimulants with the legal maximum dose of caffiene until the work is complete (I really hope my one friend who used this method is doing better now). There's the traditional scheduling system, either with a to do list or some kind of calendar system to keep track of tasks.

On a slight tangent, I was a big fan of keeping a to do list in High School, using a now defunct app called Wunderlist. I had to set to show me all the tasks upcoming for the next week, and I miss the dopamine of hearing the 'ding!' whenever I completed a task. It showed me fun stats, like how I completed a grand total of 0 items on a Friday, or how my most productive day was apparently Tuesday?? I have surprisingly fond memories associated with that.

Anyway, the big danger of to do lists is that the time spent setting them up and filling them out can overtake the time spent actually working on them. It's not so much of an issue in school, where assignments are usually cleanly split up into easily digestable tasks. Video games take advantage of this too - by making the to do list for you, completing task after task is both fun and natural and part of the secret of making things fun. Sadly, in real life, it's not so simple to make your own lists of small and easy tasks. Many projects don't even have nice subtasks, like when looking for job; you just keep doing the same thing until you get an interview.

I've observed people use many different tools in conjunction with lists and schedules to keep them on track. Things like using external motivators to force them to work for defined blocks of time, or delaying gratification until a certain amount of tasks are done. I can't deny their effectiveness - this idea has spawned a whole shady industry of productivity hacks and hustlers. What's I find really interesting is how this structure compares to how I plan my time.

You see, there's another way to organize and complete large projects without using any of these tools. One that I haven't really noticed anybody do except for myself. At this risk of sounding simplistic, I basically just do one small thing at a time, whatever's currently in front of me, and jump between projects very often. It's something that only really works under specific circumstances, but first maybe I should explain how it's actually different.

In my mind, with to do lists or schedules, it's about the end goal. This is what I want to have accomplished at this time, and this is the plan I have made for doing so. The plan then is broken down into a series of steps which can be scheduled, but fundamentally it's about looking forward and being cognizant of the end goal.

I kind of do the opposite. I rarely have an end goal in mind for most of my projects. In fact I don't even know if you can call them projects, since I'm lacking a destination. All I do is, every day, when I have free time, I just pick the next coolest thing I've been meaning to do and then doing it. Just today I've switched between home automation, a side project, working on a video with a friend, writing this blog post, working on my bike, and some small stuff for my job.

I know the distinction may sound a little bit trivial, but I think there's a big difference when it comes to worldview. Unlike some highly organized people, I don't know where my future is heading. I don't have any specific things that I know will be finished in a month or a year. It's not about setting a destination for me; instead, I always have faith that I'm moving in the right direction.

I think this is a big part of how I envision the future. I have very little plans about what will be different, but I'm confident I will be cooler and more interesting than I am now. Every day when I need things to do, I pick a direction that I feel good about and move forward. Some of the stuff I'm doing today is same as the stuff I was doing last year, like home automation. That part is predictable. Other stuff, I've completely stumbled upon and I would have had no idea I'd want to do it, like biking or camping. I know it's right, though, because it feels cool.

There are some factors very specific to me that makes this work. None of the stuff I do has very strict deadlines, so I'm free to explore. I'm also very open to new experiences, and don't need strict rules to keep me on track; I can trust I'll use my free time for something productive. Most crucially, I have a very strong sense of direction for my life but a weak sense of destination. I don't know who or what I want to be in 3 or 5 or 10 years, but when I see something cool it really really sticks with me. When there is something cool that I know I want to do, then almost nothing will stop me from giving it a try.