When it's time to act, Act

14 Jan 2023

I like to plan stuff, whether it be the daily TODOs or life in general. It provides structure amidst the chaos of daily life.

Now planning is just half the story as you might assume, because its just structure, a skeleton, and unless you enforce it, it remains just that.

When it comes to acting on those plans, things get somewhat tricky, atleast for the vast majority (i think), me included.

For me the main deterrent to action is Limbic friction. And eventhough there's this huge amount of literature regarding getting things done and planning stuff, i've found that the answer to actually getting things done is to train your limbic system so that the distance between your will (the plan) and action is kept to a minimum.

However there should be some distance as you need to think briefly before acting (As having no distance between plan and action seems to be an attribute of machines).

I found this article from Huberman labs about forming & breaking habits helpful in dealing with limbic friction.

Let's say we plan to write more and fail to act on it, doing so could be reinforcing limbic friction. This is also true the other way around when we plan to not do something and fail to act on that. And repeating it for a long time can affect our happiness and fulfilment levels.

Before going any further, i have to say, all of this assumes that the plan was already prepared and its the doing part that concerns us.

So i thought, why not delve down that path a bit. Now planning is the foundation of any action. Quick impulsive actions have their place, but oftentimes when our goals do not demand split-second action/reaction, a proper plan is always the wise move.

Going a step deeper, before a plan comes intent, or the desire on which we have to ultimately act upon. But that rabbit hole is for another day to traverse.

Coming back to the topic, given that there is an intent or desire, we set out to plan our steps to do or achieve that. Often times we have no clue how to reach our destination, and thus we get stuck in procrastination land. Sunk in despair from inaction.

Okay, not to be so dramatic, let me put it this way,

No wind favours the ship sailing to destination unknown.

Enough said ? Let's get wordy,

  • If the task is simple, trivial and can be done in 2 minutes, do it now.
  • If it is complex, you'll need a plan. And how do you plan ?
    • Well, take a piece of paper, and a pen, write down what you think might be the steps to take, completing which you can say that the task is done and dusted.
    • There could be leaps of faith between the steps, if that is so, break the steps down to smaller steps.
    • Rinse and repeat till what you are left with are the small, simple steps. Which i would like to call, the Fundamental Unit Of Task (FUT)

More about FUTs

  • They are the simplest of tasks/steps forming a bigger task or a step.
  • A FUT is
    • Actionable (Usually includes an action verb)
      • Eg: Write 100 words
    • Schedulable (Can be alloted a time frame, within which it can/should be completed)
  • An example of a FUT : Write 500 words today.
    • It could be that the above example is actually a complex task at which point you want to break that down further, in which case "Write 100 words in the next 10 minutes" could be a better FUT.
    • Remember, our goal is to ultimately act, so do whatever helps with that.

Breaking down huge tasks to smaller ones that seems trivial helps us get a grip over the whole process, making it more manageable, reducing complexity and ultimately leading to us being not overwhelmed.

By now there should be a written list of steps (including FUTs), which says what you have to do, when to do it, and even how to do it (if you make it verbose enough).

There is clarity. All there is to do is to take the first step on the path in front of you.

To conclude, all of this seems like a lot of upfront work. But you are no longer confused. You could be lazy still, but not confused.

And when you look at the plan, and notice its time to act, Act !! dear friend.