Questions from James Clear

James Clear wrote the book Atomic Habits, and writes a weekly email that aims to be “The most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web.” Each week he asks a question, and I find many of them interesting. Here are my answers.

How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing? [2019-08-08]

While in the past I have struggled with putting things off (procrastination), more recently I have hesitated less. In doing so, I am moving outside my comfort zone to be closer to the limit of what I am “capable of doing”.

Where I fall short of that limit, it is due to balancing multiple projects (helping ONI grow, my personal writing, my fitness) rather than choosing to “continue what I am comfortable doing”. I note that as I grow, what once was at the limits of capability becomes more comfortable, and I need to be vigilant at stretching out towards the edge of my ability. (Edited 2020-08-16)

What are the most likely sources of pain in my life over the next year? How can I prepare for or prevent them? [2019-08-15]

Failing to achieve ONI’s mission.
Failing to be honest, ethical, just.
Failing to live up to my own values.
Not taking care of myself, causing myself to become physically or mentally injured or ill.
Failing to speak up or act when I should have.
(Answered 2020-08-15)

Can my current habits carry me to my desired future? [2019-08-22]

Generally, yes. There is optimisation to be made, but I am maintaining my physical and mental health. I am supporting my friends, and accepting their help when I need it. I am learning, and training, and reflecting, and meditating. I could do all of these things more, and better, but in general my habits are good.
(Answered 2020-08-15)

What should you do more of this decade? What should you do less of? [2019-08-29]

More: Early morning exercise, mixture of strength and endurance, eating clean, sleeping, loving, laughing, building, giving thanks.
Less: Consuming junk (food, media).
(Answered 2020-08-15)

Look at each item on your to-do list and ask, “Is this truly necessary?” [2019-09-05]

No, many things are not “Truly Necessary.”
(Answered 2020-08-15)

Do you really need to think more, or is it simply a matter of doing the work? [2019-09-12]

It is (usually) simply a matter of doing the work. (Answered 2020-08-16)

The people who have already walked through the fire can help you do the same. Who are you surrounding yourself with?​ [2019-09-19]

Incredibly talented people at ONI, my inspiring friends from around the world (mostly met through school and university). All good people who I feel lucky to be surrounded by. (Answered 2020-08-16)

How are you collaborating in your defeat? How are you contributing to your own struggle? [2019-09-26]

Putting off tasks which I can action quickly. Avoiding uncomfortable truths. Saying yes to too many things, rather than focusing on fewer things. Reading and watching trivial entertainment rather than learning from others’ experience. (Answered 2020-08-16)

How would the person I wish to be act today? [2019-10-03]

More or less how I acted today (speaking with people who are important to me, running, cooking quality food). Today was a good day. (Answered 2020-08-16)

What can you remove from your life that would improve it? [2019-10-10]

My insecurities, my need to feel liked by my peers, my distractions. More trivially: the fungal spores that spawn mould in my bathroom. (Answered 2020-08-16)

Are things truly not going well … or do I just need some food, water, and a short break?​ [2019-10-17]

This is a more trivial question than many others in this list. Truly, things are going well. (Answered 2020-08-16)

How can I prepare carefully, but execute quickly? [2019-10-24]

Difficult question to answer in general. Have effective frameworks and systems for analysing and problem solving. Take care of one’s physical and mental health. Look for the fundamental principles, the atomic units of an experience, that can be applied or extrapolated. Have a clear guiding principle, and follow it. (Answered 2020-08-16)

Am I happy with the tradeoffs I am making in my life right now? [2019-10-31]

I’m reflecting on this recently. “Right now” – yes, but what is optimal in 1, 5, or 10 years? Less clear. (Answered 2020-08-16)

What is the biggest opportunity I could pursue in the next 5 minutes? [2019-11-07]

Considering these questions, reflecting, and taking action to improve. More generally, detaching, changing my perspective, appreciating what is around me and where I am, and expressing gratitude to those who help me. (Answered 2020-08-16)

If you were forced to work for just one hour per day, what would you work on during that hour to be most effective? [2019-11-14]

I interpret this question as “What is your most valuable and unique contribution to your field of work”. What comes to mind now is nudging people over their activation energy for positive tasks. Finding chain reactions that I can start that lead to good outcomes. (Answered 2020-08-16)

What is the most neglected important area in my life right now? [2019-11-21]

Perhaps spirituality, though I am reasonably comfortable neglecting it. Perhaps romantic relationships, though I hope I am not being neglectful. Earlier this year it would be maintaining friendships, but I am neglecting that far less recently. (Answered 2020-08-16)

Are your obligations real or imagined? [2019-11-28]

Clearly some are real and others are “imagined”. I have a real obligation to fulfil my promises, pay my debts, support those who support me. I have imaginary obligations to my future self, to live a healthy life, to gain skills and experience. Writing here is an “imaginary” obligation, but it is a habit I cultivate happily nevertheless.

What are you avoiding just because you know the answer is painful? [2019-12-05]

Am I climbing the right mountain? [2019-12-12]

What do you really wish you had the courage to do? Follow up: How can you take the first step in the next 5 minutes?​ [2019-12-19]

Over the last 10 years, what has become more important to you? What has become less important? [2019-12-26]

Think of the ultimate outcome you are hoping to achieve. Is there a path to accomplishing this where you would encounter less resistance? [2020-01-02]

What am I holding on to that I need to let go of this year? [2020-01-09]

In what ways are you a difficult person to work with? What can you learn from that? [2020-01-16]

Am I tolerating my flaws or improving them? [2020-01-23]

Will this matter in six months? [2020-01-30]

What are the minority of my actions that drive the majority of my results? [2020-02-06]

Will this cost me time in the future or save me time in the future? [2020-02-13]

Whose expectations am I trying to fulfill? My own or those of someone else? [2020-02-20]

What would 10-year-old me say? What would 80-year-old me say? [2020-02-27]

How would I know if my beliefs are wrong? [2020-03-05]

Which projects give me energy? Which projects takes it away? Which people give me energy? Which people take it away? [2020-03-12]

How can I make the most of this? [2020-03-19]

Who is your biggest fan? How can you thank them today? [2020-03-26]

What is one thing I am looking forward to today? [2020-04-02]

Can you sit still, do nothing, and breathe deeply for the next two minutes? [2020-04-09]

Am I proud of what I am choosing to do? [2020-04-16]

Who do I know that can help me with this? [2020-04-23]

What does this make possible? [2020-04-30]

What is something that feels productive to you in the moment, but usually ends up wasting time and energy? [2020-05-07]

Am I doing this for Present Me or Future Me? [2020-05-14]

What do you enjoy refining? (It’s the areas you can’t help yourself from editing and optimizing where you have a long-term advantage.) [2020-05-21]

If someone could only see my actions and not hear my words, what would they say are my priorities? [2020-05-28]

What is the biggest small thing I could do today? [2020-06-04]

Which of my current habits serves me most? Which serves me least? [2020-06-11]

What are you preventing yourself from feeling? [2020-06-18]

What can you work on today that will continue working for you years from now? [2020-06-25]

Am I being good to myself? [2020-07-02]

What am I avoiding just because the desired outcome would take longer than I’d like? [2020-07-09]

Assume that more than one path exists to achieve your ideal life. What would some of the alternative routes look like? [2020-07-16]

Imagine each day is only 12 hours long. What would you cut out? [2020-07-23]

Which areas of my life are in maintenance mode? Which areas are in growth mode? [2020-07-30]

Am I being effective or just busy? [2020-08-06]

What am I holding on to that I need to let go of? [2020-08-13]

What is your personal compounding advantage in your career? [2020-08-20]

What is one thing you can accomplish today that would make this day a success? [2020-08-27]

What are the 1-2 things that if you get them done today, you’ll go to bed content? [2020-09-03]

Is there a better way? Is there a kinder way? [2020-09-10]

If you keep living the way you are, what will your life look like in 20 years? [2020-09-17]

Who brings out your best qualities? Can you take five minutes right now to schedule time with them? [2020-09-24]

What are the important problems in your field? And if you’re not working on them, why not? [2020-10-01]

What am I reinforcing each day? [2020-10-08]

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