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Systems Improv

Tuesday June 15, 2021

This is kind of a fun one for me lately: Systems Improv, or the design of ad hoc systems. Throwaway systems, even.

Premise: Each new and important moment gets a new micro-system, designed to fit the needs of the moment.

Nothing is assumed about the needs of the moment. No old or existing systems are brought forward unless they seem to meet the needs of the moment. (This is a huge difference—I used to drag these bulky existing systems along with me into everything, and try to force them to fit. Like, hey, let’s make this moment fit into bullet journaling. Or hey, let’s make this moment fit into this productivity system I learned last year.)

All systems and designs which are to be integrated right now are logically, intuitively, or emotionally weighed.

Defined in the New Moment

I start with a definition of the system needed. This becomes the temporary name of the system.

Example: Today I needed a system called the…

“I meant to take a nap, but couldn’t fall asleep thanks to this Soviet super-drug, so now my head is fuzzy and what do I do about it”-System.

(Yeah, you read that right!)

I was pretty convinced the day was going to suck at this point. You know what I mean if you think sleep is super important and then you can’t get any. But I wanted to try something.

  1. I started simple—I wrote a list of things that I could probably do to get the day back on the rails.
  2. Then I started to organize the list. From five items to three main items, with some indented sub-items.
  3. Then some higher-level concepts came to mind, intuitively. First, a meta-system-design concept came to mind, so I put that in as its own list to refer to later. Second, I thought this improvised system needed a loop, so I used a two-part timer from Task BATL to drive the loop. In this case, 30 minutes of comfort, 10 minutes of focused try-harding, and repeat. This kind of backward productivity timer loop is one of my favorites.
  4. I added on some other portions of Task BATL as well. For example I added a ton of circle items to get me started: Get hydrated, go to the bathroom, eat a snack, turn on some music, take a couple of these supplements and one of those, and start a couple movies quietly playing in the background. Gotta take care of yourself! This stuff is important.

From there, the day got WAY better.

Organized by Need

If the system is unique in some way, or seems a pain to re-design later, I file it for later use.

Lossy by Design

If not—no big deal, it’s like journaling (and the system is designed inside my daily log / journal). I don’t mind losing a lot of what I write, because it’s the exercise of writing that does most of what I need. If you can improvise your systems, then I think losing some here or there will just happen naturally. Did you lose one? Oh, sorry, I guess you get to flex your improv muscle again…that’s the idea anyway.

Filed in: Therapeutic Practice /144/ | Productivity /119/ | Control /110/

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