2 min read

Creating better defaults

Creating better defaults
Photo by Curology / Unsplash

Today I started reading The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. I came across a quote on the fifth page that I liked:

Knowing what to do tells you nothing about what happens in your head when you try to do it.

There are a lot of reasons why we fail to do the things that we want – lack of motivation, discipline, focus, etc. However, I'm more interested by instances when we somehow manage to overcome this resistance, and accomplish our goals anyway.

For me, success lies in setting up systems that make desired actions the default. Here are a few examples:

  • To exercise more, I have scheduled workouts with my trainer Genaro on Mondays and Thursdays. Changing this routine requires effort, such as texting him to cancel. That little bit of friction adds a layer of accountability and motivates me even when I'm not feeling up to it.
  • To read more, I keep a book, pen, and bookmark by my nightstand. I don't always read every night, this setup encourages me to read much more frequently than before.
  • To write more, I committed to writing daily on the View from JQ, even during my wedding, and even if it is just a single word. This decision means that my default is to write because it is a new day, and that helps me keep the work moving forward.
  • To have less meetings, I don't schedule recurring meetings unless it is with my manager, my mentor or my mentees. That way, my default is to not meet with someone again, unless one of us asks to arrange one.
  • To prioritize better, I implemented a weekly check-in / check-out process at work. Having a structured template and scheduled time to do this every week means that my default is to prioritize on Monday mornings and reflect on Friday afternoons.
  • To be more present in video calls, I minimize my tile at the start of every meeting. This makes it easier for me to focus on other people in the call, instead of looking at myself.

There are other areas where I am looking to to change my defaults:

  • To eat healthier, I'd like to experiment with having a default meal plan for the week. My husband James and I struggle with figuring out what to eat every day, and we end up resorting to takeout or frozen meals just because we are tired and didn't prepare ahead of time.
  • To prioritize reviewing design document in a more timely manner, I'm planning to carve out separate blocks of time on my calendar for printing, reviewing, and discussing design documents with people. Although I have blocks of focus time on my calendar, I often end up getting distracted because I don't have the document handy, or because other commitments come up.
  • To code more regularly, I plan to spend some time optimizing my Cloudtop and Cider setup on my work laptop. I think that doing this will let me streamline coding sessions, and make it an easier default activity when I'm inclined to do so.