Balancing with modes
Friday, July 28, 2006A balanced life is one of the recurring themes in personal development and productivity. Usually this centers around balancing work and personal life. In Covey's material, the idea is to balance various roles that a person plays. In David Allen's, the idea is not really directly addressed other than an implicit promise that if you are managing all the details, you will intuitively be able to balance at higher levels.
I've never had much success at forcing myself to take action in various areas or roles; I tend to do very well in a few areas at the expense of others. Of course, that's the very problem the personal development gurus are trying to address, but I've recently been thinking about the problem a different way. Instead of trying to balance out different areas, I simply "give in" to what I call my "modes." I've identified certain recurring sets of mood, desire, energy levels, etc. that I sort of naturally cycle through, and each one is ideal for a certain type of action, thought or focus. It's usually pretty obvious which one I'm in, and I'm now trying to play to the strengths of each mode while I'm in it. It's very similar to the rather obvious advice of "eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired."
This is the mode where work (programming), administration, and other reality-based items get done. Luckily for me, I'm pretty much in this mode from at least nine to five throughout the work week. You may not think that sounds lucky, but business is essentially pragmatic and to do well means not straying too far off into more flighty realms.
This is when I want to read, write, and think. While business has intellectual aspects, for me this is more about things like philosophy, history, culture, and fiction. This is solitary activity for me so it also serves as a type of mental recreation.
In some ways, this is kind of a "spaced out" mode that is the opposite of pragmatism. I do a lot of standing or sitting around while in this mode, interspersed with bursts of unrelated and unplanned action. In this mode I am totally open to intuition and do not refer to any lists, plans, or even the computer. I like nature a lot in this mode. I tend to only get into this mode on the weekends.
An obvious one: this is when I want to hang out with other people.
This could be sleeping, watching TV, reading popular fiction, etc. It's a sort of complete disconnect from real life.
This is (now) a somewhat rare mode for me, but it's also one of the most fun! I write most of my songs while in this mode, a song being a sort of trick or joke where I can say anything and wrap it up in sugar-pill capsule form.
The mood to be in this mode strikes me very rarely, which brings up the next obvious question - how do you naturally increase the occurrence of a particular mode?
Of course, most of these are personal and everyone will have their own set.
I'm not above forcing personal development on myself, but I've been trying to capitalize on natural cycles and impulses to reduce my own rigidity and make the most of natural, fluid approaches. This is mainly because I realized that micro-managing everything on a computer is only helpful for certain areas and is actually detrimental to others.
Posted by murt at 4:51 PM