Buttocks and Binary Fission

Tired? Busy? Overwhelmed?
Can’t do 100%?

Then do 50%.

There’s nothing wrong with a half-a**ed job. Do half an a** now, half-an a** later, and pretty soon you have a nice, round a**. J-Lo would be proud.

What’s that? You can’t do 50%?
Then do 50% of that.

  1. Still too much?
  2. Cut in half again.
  3. Return to step 2 as many times as necessary.

Keep cutting until you get to something so small, that you start tilting your head to one side, curling the corner of your mouth, and squinting your eyes in a sort of “That’s it? Are you kidding me?” pose. Sort of like the face Pope John Paul II made when I told him about this idea.

You have found a cell. A unit so small, you don’t care any more. A few years ago, this one cell actually split up so many times that it became Jennifer Lopez’s derrière. I hear the same thing happened to you, too. I’m guessing it was more mitosis than binary fission, but…same difference, really — it’s all cell division.

Can’t do your SRS reps today?
Do half of them.
Still too much?
Do half of that.
Too big? Keep dividing.
Maybe you’ll end up just doing one.
And that’s fine.

Just keep dividing those cells. Just keep cutting things in half. You basically never have to feel like you’re doing anything, you just focus on division. The addition and multiplication will take care of themselves.

“easy and hard are nothing more than words to describe how much you resist doing the work”

There is no “hard”. There is only “needs smaller steps”. Cut. Slice. Dice. Make things too small to resist. That’s most of what timeboxing is about. It’s what our “cell division” is about. It’s what Maurer’s Kaizen Way (改善 hmmm…sounds like a martial art :P ) is about.

You already know how to do this. You’ll have trouble regularly eating whole tomatoes, but if those same tomatoes are simply sliced up and placed between strips of bread, suddenly there’s no tomato left. And this is all happening despite the fact that you’re probably eating more than before.

The same thing goes for apples. You see a whole apple and you’re like “meeeh, I’m not feeling so apply”. Until, that is, a sliced apple is placed in your sphere of influence. Pretty soon, you’re running out of apples.

It’s not the “appetite” (ability), it’s the presentation. If you’re in charge of something (like learning a language on your own), you’re in charge of the presentation, too. Make it look nice for yourself. Make it appealing. Make it fun. Probably, your mother used to do this kind of thing for you. Now, no one does it for you. No one gives you colorful books and sweet-tasting medicine. Why? Because you don’t need it? No — because you can do it for yourself. You still need help, you’re just not helpless.

Do half-a**ed work. Make it so small and tasty that you cannot resist. Work from the most simple to the most complex tasks. And chill. Our actions compound whether we worry or not. Our actions produce effects of their own accord. We just have to do our part on the cause side. We often cannot directly control effects and it’s generally a huge waste of energy to try. But we’re always in charge of a bunch of causes. And that turns out to be more than enough. We already control all the causes we need to control.

Do your little, half-a**ed part. Let nature — biology, physics, whatever — take care of the rest.

Remember, it starts with one cell. The roundest buttocks…all used to be one cell. And no matter how big they get, they’re still nothing but a bunch of cells.

  18 comments for “Buttocks and Binary Fission

  1. Maya
    August 10, 2010 at 05:18

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time.

    A few days ago, I started noticing that I was dreading doing kanji. Even though I’m only doing 15-20 per day, it felt like a lot to do them all (along with 40-60 reps of old kanji) all in one go. I decided to try breaking it down into chunks of 5-10 kanji at a time… at first I didn’t even want to bother because, well, “5 kanji is nothing.”

    Of course, that nothingness is what makes it feasible. Case in point: today I’ve learned 40 new kanji and have already gone through 50 reps, and will probably do 20-30 more reps later on.

    ‘Sides, breaking stuff into tiny chunks makes it easier to fit into your schedule, no matter what your schedule looks like. Not everyone can afford to sit down and study for an hour straight, but most people can afford to sit down and study for 5-15mins at a time, a few times per day.

  2. August 10, 2010 at 05:39

    Beautifully put! I nudge myself along each day. I’m finding new areas of my life that I can introduce something in japanese. Mostly they are little things. I’ve given myself permission to fail, and take great pleasure in my successes (as well as, the success of others). No sweat and having more and more fun!!!

  3. August 10, 2010 at 06:27

    I remember seeing that tweet about doing half and a** now and half an a** later.. I think I cried due to laughter. It’s so true though. haha

  4. Theo
    August 10, 2010 at 11:32

    I agree with Maya, perfect timing Khatz… dude, u know what I did? I start over in small pieces… I was kinda freaking to do so much reps then I said f**ck, then I deleted (I’m sentence-picking time… no more “new” kanjis, just old ones) and I started over my kanjis deck with lazy mod… my real problem is that I still have a lack of creativity to find good sentences/expressions whatever i do… anyway, I’ll find a way…

  5. Satoshi
    August 10, 2010 at 11:47

    Could be cultural (I’m Brazillian) or personal (I like fruits and my mom didn’t buy them that often when I was a child), but I generally eat apples and tomatoes whole.

    Yet, doesn’t really matter, just had to say it.

  6. Mendes
    August 11, 2010 at 00:17

    Thank you for posting this. You’ve always written about taking things in our own rhythm, but somehow I never applied that to my life. When I was doing my schedule, it was always something like: ”2 hours of this” plus ”2 hours of that”. In the end, I feel overwhelmed just by looking at the schedule and knowing I have to do a task for 2 hours; by the end of the day, I did almost nothing at all.

    Yesterday I read this post, and decided not to demand so much of myself. So instead of writing ”2 hours”, I wrote ”15 minutes” for each task. When I was doing my reps, I looked up to see the time and 3 hours had passed! I started the task, knowing it was easy to do, and then I got so much into it, that time just went by without me noticing it. ^_^ Thank you so much!

  7. Seth G
    August 13, 2010 at 02:01

    What does the pope picture say? :P Don’t… speak… Chinese :P

  8. あんど
    August 13, 2010 at 02:07

    Bahahaha, I just looked at the URL.

  9. Seth G
    August 13, 2010 at 02:09

    Nevermind. Cantodict’s parser to the rescue. For everybody else, it’s like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”

  10. August 13, 2010 at 04:29

    And along the same lines, my personal favourite, listen to your target language while you’re doing something else completely. You don’t even need to concentrate – which means you’re down to 0 minutes of effort. But the habit you’re creating is worth infinitely more.

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