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Better Process to Match Intentions to Actions

Published 8/12/2022

Your time is full of intent, but if you reflect back - how often do you do what you intend?

Our actions are usually trying to reach some outcome, but are haphazard and habit-driven. What if we made that outcome explicit, and made our calendars reflect specific processes instead of vague outcomes?

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I'm going to give you an exercise in today's episode. And it's a simple one like many of the exercises that I've given you recently. It is about your time, how you spend your time. I want you for the next three days to schedule your whole day. Now you can open up the categories as broadly as you want to, but schedule your day. Now I don't mean schedule your meetings. I mean that everything that you intend to do, and I want to focus on that word, intend, everything you intend to do, you put it on your calendar. At the end of each of those three days, set a reminder, set some kind of alarm, and look back. Look back at your calendar and determine how well did you actually stick to what you intended to do. Here's the amazing thing that you'll probably find. Our intentions don't always match up with our actions. We're going to talk about a way to address this in today's episode. But first, let's talk about today's topic. This episode of Developer T is brought to you by Square. There are millions of sellers. You know them. You've seen them around town probably. Millions of those people are across the globe using Square. Those little white boxes that you probably have bought your stuff from to run every aspect of their business. Many are looking for customized solutions that are deeply connected and easy to use for their businesses. This is where you as a developer can come in. You can grow your own business by extending or integrating with Square using free APIs and SDKs to build tools for those sellers. Learn more by going to developer.com slash square. Thanks again to Square for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Most of what you're going to do on this calendar, this 3-day calendar. It's not going to be the first time that you've done those things. It probably won't be the last time either. This is obviously a little different if you're starting a new job or maybe moving some kind of major transition than things are a little out of whack. But for the most part, people thrive on having repeatable actions that produce predictable outcomes. Think about this. Repeatable actions that produce predictable outcomes is your daily routine. It doesn't mean that you follow every single day the same exact actions. Of course, your job may have you doing different things on Mondays versus Tuesdays or on the weekends versus the week. You may have completely different activities. But for the most part, we as humans are not doing something completely, fundamentally novel on a daily basis. We are redoing whatever process that we've done before. This goes down to our small habits like eating and exercising and all that we have to our very important big habits like writing code. But here's the tricky thing. We often have repeated patterns that we intend to practice, but we fall short. We intend to go in exercise, but we fall short of that and maybe we exercise for half the time that we expected to. We stay at work a little bit too late or we procrastinate on our phones. Our various habits collide in this way. What we intend to do and what we actually do often diverge from each other. Of course, there's not just one driving reason for this and we can't cover all of the reasons for why our behaviors don't always match up with our intentions. But what I do want to do today is focus you on one specific aspect of this problem. For all of the repetition that we go through in our lives, the kinds of processes that we repeat over and over, these little investments that we make into our lives, which is investment of time. We very rarely think about how we are doing these things. Yes, we make our lunch, but what process are we following to make our lunch? That's a small one, but it turns out to have major consequences. If the process is underserved, then we might fall to our worst habits. Making lunch is not actually a process that you put on your calendar in those first three days that we did this exercise. In fact, making lunch was the outcome. Look at those calendar invites and ask yourself which of these have repeatable and sustainable processes that I know exactly how to execute on. Very often we, in our heads, implicitly convert these different processes that we've taken, for example, make lunch, turns into, figure out a way to eat lunch. The objective comes before the process. If we took some time to look at these repeated processes, these repeated actions and behaviors that we participate in, and instead redesign them for the outcomes that we actually want. It's not just that we want to eat lunch, we want to eat a healthy lunch. It's not just that we want to go to the gym, we want to get stronger or leaner, faster. It's not just that we want to end up having written some code today. We want to follow the correct procedures that we know are going to produce good code. When we look at the objectives and the outcomes that we care about, instead of making those outcomes implicit and thereby relying on our automatic processes, those automatic processes, by the way, are just whatever habits we've accidentally have hazardly built for ourselves. We can instead start with the real explicit objective, right? Start with the explicit objective and then design the process that we use to get there. Here's the interesting thing. If you look at that calendar, those first three days that we did this exercise, it's likely that you have things that are very similar to each other, but you're using totally different processes. Maybe you don't even know what the process is. Those habits are taking over. Instead, I encourage you to have a single source of truth. What is the way that you go to the gym? What is the way that you process your email? What is the way that you conduct your one-on-ones? All of these various processes that make up all of these important events in your life, if you design them well and you focus on an explicit objective rather than implicit objectives, then you are going to be more likely to align your intentions with your actions. There's a lot of reasons for this. One is that the cognitive overhead is much lower. If you have a single source of truth, if you have an explicit objective and you have an explicit procedure or a process that you follow in order to output that objective, it's much easier than having to make that decision each time you're faced with a problem. In other words, with implicit habit-based processes that you haven't intentionally designed, you're likely to have a lot of haphazard based on your energy or mood that day, which is part of that habit set. Are you going to engage for this particular meeting or this particular output that you're looking for? We talked about doing similar exercises to this where you identify different types of activities that you're participating in. This can take advantage of that earlier work if you've already done it. The goal here is to identify things that you're doing enough times to warrant a designed process. To build that process around your explicit intended outcomes, what this allows you to do is still fall back to something, but instead of falling back to a habit, you're falling back to a predefined process, something that you can execute without a lot of mental cognitive overhead. The goal is to put the work in up front to make sure that that process is thorough and that it actually is producing the outcomes that you care about. If you do the work up front, then your mood is not going to impact how good of a job you're going to do at that process. You either follow it or you don't. I'd encourage you to start thinking about the various things that you do on a repetitive basis. Imagine what would it look like if I were to design this well? If I had a repeatable way of doing this rather than an ad hoc way, if instead of throwing lunch together at the last minute, maybe I start planning my meals in advance. This kind of thinking is going to produce better and more consistent outcomes, and once again, it's going to align better with your intentions. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to today's sponsor Square, at over to developer.com slash square, to get started, building tools for millions of sellers today. If you enjoyed this episode and enjoyed the type of discussion that we had here, there's a lot more than what we have on the podcast in the actual discussions that you can participate in in the Developer Tea discord community. At over to developer.com slash discord to get started with that today. Finally, I'm going to ask you once again, if you have not left a review for this podcast in whatever podcast provider you use, whether it's iTunes or another one, that is one of the most important ways that you can help the show continue to succeed. The show has been around for seven years, we're going on eight years in this coming January. We're not playing on going anywhere. But the most important thing for the longevity of any podcast is continuously growing and changing audience and reviews are probably the most important part of growing that audience. So if you have not done that yet, I encourage you and I'm asking you directly to take a few minutes to do that. Thanks for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.