The Non-Negotiable Week

Last year, I wrote a list of non-negotiable routines that I would maintain during my college’s dead week” where no new schoolwork is to be assigned to that students can focus on studying for their finals.

My list included things like waking up early, cold showers, brutal honesty with myself about how things were going, and boundaries of where and when I would do work relating to finals.

The most important and final directive was item number 30, which instructed me to Carry on (with the routines) for as long as possible”. I was overly optimistic about how long could continue to maintain all of these disciplines, but without realizing it I was cultivating good habits through a core productivity and time management principle: the 80/20 rule.

This rule, otherwise known as the Pareto principle, originally was an observation by an Italian Economist that 80% of the land and wealth in a country was owned by 20% of the population. Since then, businesspeople and self-help enthusiasts alike have used it to identify the minority (20%) of inputs in any given system that produce the majority of desired outcomes (80%).

A few lessons that transcend finals week:

I successfully followed all of the directives in the Non-Negotiable week successfully for about the week I hoped I would, but only a few items in the list drove the majority of clarity and consistency that I sought while studying for my finals.

While the majority of the routines didn’t stick because of the hyper-specific guidelines and constraints I gave myself to follow, making myself more aware of them during the week was a good practice in auditing parts of my lfie where I would previously go through on autopilot.

For the reader to consider:

When it feels necessary to make dramatic changes in your life, write down your desired outcomes with as much specificity as possible. From there, write down all the ways you’ll work towards those goals and try as many as you can. Even if you don’t know which rituals will be the highest leverage and efficacy, they will naturally present themselves to you.

November 28, 2022