What Have I Done?

August 15, 2015

  • work
  • shower
  • rubios
  • David walks in on us haha fuck

June 16, 2016

  • puke, lie on yoga mat, barely eat, do nothing

September 3, 2016

  • Talk to kate for an hour at cory about cool things
  • Eat wahoos
  • hang out at cory house
  • Write bridge of lick your mind
  • Leave for sd with stephen, innout, guy with DUI story
  • Chill with stephen, paul, emily, sunny, christian
  • Sleep 4:30 barely at sunny’s

Pretty riveting stuff huh?

I didn’t make any of that up by the way. I actually did those things on those dates, and there’s nothing special about them. My friends randomly picked the days not knowing what this post would be about.

Like many others who try to get things done, I make to-do lists and have a written schedule. Staying organized is usually important, and about two years ago I started writing these daily to-do lists. I’d order each task by when I would do it, and not by its priority level or difficulty. If you make daily schedules too, you can probably guess from your own experience that I often didn’t stick to mine. Other things would pop up. Tasks got shifted back. Sometimes hours. Sometimes weeks. Time and time again I’d fail to follow through on my daily schedule. In my defense, I was overly optimistic about my productivity and will power, but still.

So to motivate myself, I thought it’d be useful to write in what I actually ended up doing at the end of each day. I wanted to see how much I strayed from my plan — to see what I did in a week and either feel good about what I accomplished or feel ashamed for being a lazy piece of shit. And since I was recording these daily schedules on my computer, I didn’t see much sense in deleting anything.

As of today, I have every single day of exactly two years of my life documented, often down to the hour.

Ok not every single day. Two years is 730.5 days, and about 30 of those aren’t documented very well, but the rest is reasonably detailed. I write down the major parts of every day, in order. When I run, climb, work, hang out with friends, watch a movie with family, go to a concert, visit a new brewery. Everything.

My recording methods have evolved over these past two years. During school, my schedule included hour ranges for every task. I had classes to skate to, a newspaper to manage and write for, a fraternity to lead, programming assignments to debug, beaches to run to, clients to tutor, work to write more code for, and all the chilling in between. God all the chilling.

January 2016, a particularly formative month. Conveniently blurred out for obvious reasons

Hours were necessarily doled out to specific tasks back then, but after graduating, the fluidity of life made it too difficult to keep up with exact time ranges. I also reasoned it wouldn’t be useful to be that specific anyway. If I meticulously remembered the times of when I did things, I guess I could write a parser that calculates how much time I’ve spent on certain activities over time and track habit formation, but it’d have to be a ridiculously smart parser.

Over the years, I’ve developed a system to better visualize certain activities and goals. Running, climbing, and bodysurfing are font colored light blue. When I was in school, class was dark blue and fraternity meetings were purple. Today, working is maroon, meetings are green, deadlines are red, and birthdays are all caps bold pink. I font color based on how each event looks or feels and bold or increase font size proportionally to the importance of each event. Normal? 11 pt. Pretty important? 13 pt. Definitely can’t forget about? 15–17 pt. Unique variability is key.

The color and different font styles let me take quick glances over long periods of time to get a sense of how much time I spent working, how often I actually went to class, or how much I exercised. It’s become a great system to stay balanced, but in the beginning it wasted a lot of the very time I was trying so hard to save.

I used to visit my calendar way too much. The act of opening it up to organize my life itself became an unproductive time vacuum. I’d blankly stare into it for stupid amounts of time trying to micromanage every hour with every deadline, to the point where I sat there paralyzed with indecision. I’d revisit my calendar probably 50 times a day, each time not recording anything or making decisions. It took a long time to cut the wasted hours that I fooled myself into thinking was productive planning time.

Now I only record my life every two or three days, sitting for about five minutes in deep, silent thought trying to remember every major event that just happened. And when I get stuck, I look into my texts or internet activity to piece my memory together.

Since I’ve been living out of my car and bouncing around SF, LA, and SD, I’ve also started writing my general location for each week. I started recording how much money I make in a day with Uber, denoted at the top of each day in green parentheses. Eventually I might record my burn rate too and optimize my life functions like a business. But for now I’m treating it more like an art piece.

When I think of adding new information categories to the calendar, I don’t always know how I’ll end up using them. I don’t read over past weeks very often because I’m too caught up with life to obsessively try and remember exactly what happened three Thursdays ago. Although the information isn’t extremely useful now, it’s important to me that it’s there for later.

It’s not quite journaling because it’s entirely made up of short phrases with no depth, but there’s a lot of hidden detail in the life calendar. Some days are vague and completely forgotten, but for most, there are certain keywords that jog my memory. I’ll read a few lines of text, get reminded by a place or conversation, and get flooded with the detailed memory of a day I would have totally forgotten otherwise. Given the right keywords, I can remember a lot of days clearly enough to write reminiscent journal entries, which so far is the best part of reading the calendar.

I think it’ll be useful in other ways as I grow older. The help with self knowledge is the most prominent, but there are also a lot of artistic pursuits I could explore with this much detail. It’d be cool to create epic forms of storytelling that span long periods of time. I’m mostly a forward looking person, but remembering the past can be pretty fun and even cathartic. My experiences are all I have to guide me forward, so remembering them well will always be a priority.

Sometimes it overwhelms me knowing that I’m probably never going to stop doing this. It takes so little time, helps keep me organized, and always reminds me to introspect and examine my life habits. It’s given me insight into how I operate and how I can live life happier and more efficiently. And yet after all this time reflecting, I have yet to decide where to go and what to do there. Whatever ends up happening, I’ll definitely write it down.