Habits vs. Plans

(This posting is in English again because I will probably link to it from the LinkedIn GTD group.)

My favorite tool for GTD (Getting Things Done) is Orgmode. I’m using it every day and I try to achieve as much as possible with it. And from time to time i step back a bit and look at it and think how I could improve this tool. So these days I was thinking about my attempts to learn the electric bass guitar and the ToDos I have put in my Orgmode file for that.

I started with a Task that was declared as a habit, a repeating task that reminds me to practice the guitar at least every two days or (even better) daily. Orgmode has a function called „habit tracking“ that is really useful to install a new habit. Yes, it works great and every time I completed my practice I wrote down in the logbook assigned to that task what I practiced.

But then I realized that I’m somewhat stuck. Its a nice habit to practice every day, but at the end it turned out that I was playing the things I’m good at already and carefully avoiding to step forward. Yes, I guess thats also called „procrastination“. Of course I have this long term goal that one day when I retire from work I’m a good bass player. But getting good means to move forward to new things and not remaining in the self defined comfort zone.

So now I rearranged my ToDo list for the bass playing thing. I defined a Project „Learn to play bass“ and this project has simple ToDos under it, one ToDo for every chapter in the book that I use to learn. And every ToDo has a planned start date and a deadline. I reserved one page in the book per day, so if the chapter is 5 pages I should do all the practices within 5 days. And then check it off the list and move to the next chapter.

I also installed a new archiving concept. So far I was archiving all done tasks in one big file lnamed „private_archive.org“. Which will practically be a mess because everything ends up in this cementary of finished tasks. So I defined a „per subtree archive„, that means every finished task from my „learn to play bass“ project will end up in a file „tracking progress for learning bass“ which then makes it easy to see what level I have reached so far. And how fast I advanced and so on.

So now my project looks like that snippet in the org file:

So you see that in the project „PROPERTIES“ there is the subtree archive defined. And I also use a property „Goal“ with the value „long“ to identify my long term goals. The „NEXT“ thing I’m currently working at is chapter 4 of the book. The deadline for chapter 4 is next monday and on tuesday I will start with chapter 5.

[tl;dr] Habits are a nice thing to perform tasks more or less automatically. But habits alone won’t lead you toward a goal as long as you don’t have any plan or roadmap how to achieve this goal.