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No special days

There was an exercise done where several people were invited one at a time into a room full of books scattered in random and then asked to categorize the books in any way that they could think of.

Before you read on, think of how you would go about such an exercise.

Unsurprisingly, the results yielded many ways in which the books were categorized. There were people that categorized them into paperbacks and hard covers. Others categorized them by number of pages. Others by the colour and pictures on the cover. Others by the genre of the books. Others categorized them into ones they had read and ones they hadn't. Others categorized them into bestsellers and non-bestsellers. Others categorized them into classics and modern. Others based on how interesting the highlight on the back cover was. And many more.

There was something about the results that was a little bit surprising, though.

A strong correlation was observed. The people that categorized the books on superficial factors like paperbacks and hard covers or by number of pages were people that hardly read any books. And the more books a person had read, the more nuanced was their way of categorizing them - tending towards classifying by popularity, critical acclaim, how interesting the plot seemed, etc.

Similar correlations were observed when the same exercise was done with music albums, movie covers, even physical objects (classified based on shape and size all the way to chemical composition and friction coefficients).

The point of these exercises is simple. The way we do one seemingly random thing can tell a lot about what we do (or have done) in life in general.

While this line of view might be interesting to economists and marketers and behavioural researchers, I found that flipping it the other way around was more interesting.

In other words, can controlling for and being deliberate about what I do in my everyday life determine the way I do new things in life?

Of course, the answer is a resounding yes. As the famous saying goes, "Tell me what your typical day looks like and I'll tell you who you are."

If you are always late to meet your friends, you'll find yourself turning up late to work meetings and doctor appointments as well. If you are tolerant of setting goals and not meeting them in your personal life, you'll be tolerant of not meeting your goals at work as well. If you treat your customers poorly, you'll treat other people in your life poorly as well.

Of course, if you put in conscious effort to not being late to work meetings and to achieving the goals you set for yourself, you will undoubtedly overcome the behaviour creep that happens from other areas of your life. And this effort is a scarce resource that you need to ration and appropriate to important tasks you care about.

Which is why many people tend to be exhausted after doing tasks that required such effort appropriation from them.

The best way to be very productive and effective and efficient all the time and do it in an unconscious way is to be that way in other areas of your life as well.

Which is why, for the past eight years, I've been adopting a policy of 'no special days'. As in my daily routine won't change a great deal irrespective of whether that day is just another day or one where I have the most important meeting or interview. Because I'm counting on the behaviour creep from my regular days to ensure I have the right approach for whatever the day may hold for me.

And it's been paying dividends to a large extent.

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