This Will Be Hard

Better is Better

One of the better decisions I made when starting this project was beginning with minimal styling, and a manual publishing flow. I had a lot of quarantine time at home when I fist contemplated writing again, and I thought I could probably get the site perfect first and then write. That time evaporated shortly thereafter, however, and without a minimum viable site, I’d have in reality never published word one.

Starting before I feel truly ready is a pattern I’ve developed too late in life. If I were to analyze myself, I think it is because I am what Gretchen Rubin calls a “Questioner.” She created four personality bins that describe how people deal with obligations. In my case as a questioner, I stick with something only if it makes sense to me. Otherwise I “question” things to death and blow off anything that doesn’t survive this scrutiny. This means I have to have something completely figured out before I begin a new habit. Stated simply: I take forever to start and quit way too often.

Of course, I realized this maddeningly late in life, and knowing this about myself now means I can structure new habits I want to build in a more iterative way. I do trial periods, with distinct decision points for modification or quitting. I can’t really explain why this works. Weren’t my previous failed attempts already trial periods, with distinct decision points for modification or quitting? Isn’t that what all new routines look like? Yes, but apparently defining things this way means I will modify far more often than I will quit. Like a lot in life, it works without making a ton of sense.

One other decision making tool I’ve recently employed to good effect is to to be freer doing what is easily unwound. The root of the word decision is “to cut,” because when you do one thing, you cut off all the other choices. That is true, in that there is a cut-line between did and didn’t, but in most situations, the didn’ts do not go away. You can easily return to the original question later, armed with better data. This is iterating, in a computer science-y sort of way.

Maybe I can provide a practical example. Technically, you can unwind the decision to buy a car, but it takes a lot of time and effort, and you usually lose money in the process. Other purchases are likewise irreversible in practice, but the scale makes all the difference. Trying out a new notebook, for instance, means you are out a few (or tens of) dollars, but that’s usually okay. What does all this mean? I should take months to decide to whether or not to buy a new car (and mostly answer no!), but I should just click “buy now” on the notebook page in Amazon.

What I am doing here is rationing mental effort, which like time, is more precious to me than money. When something is less mentally taxing (because I don’t consider the decision final), I am more likely to try it. The more I try, the more that works. The more works, the better I get.

Better is better.