(with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez)

It’s weird posting to a mostly tech blog at the moment. The world is on fire, but life goes on, yet I’ve felt utterly paralysed and unable to write anything here. It feels strange and somehow wrong to write about tech stuff, which lets face it, is not that important in the grand scheme of things, when so much other stuff is going on. Yet here we are, blogging.

So what did I want to blog about? Something that I read recently that I have taken to heart, and that has proved strangely apposite during #lockdown. I’m interested in hacking myself so that good/productive behaviour becomes easier and requires less “processing power” to achieve. Things like “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and the Bullet Journal Technique are important parts of my life, though before you ask my “Bullet Journal” technique is a bit stripped down and doesn’t require the purchase of expensive custom journals…

Consequently I love finding out new ways of fooling my brain into good behavioural patterns, but I have struggled to find the key that works for both “work stuff” and my other great love, climbing. However I recently read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and he set out an idea that has stuck with me, and shown benefits in both work and climbing throughout the last few months. It’s really very obvious, but the idea is that training or hard work should be viewed as deposits into a long-term savings account that you’ve set up to save for something really important. Every bit of hardf work or physical training that you undertake will probably not show any benefits in the short-term, but it all adds up. Every time you (or really I) slack off, it’s the equivalent of making a withdrawal. You lose more than just the cash-value, you lose the long-term interest too.

I’ve applied this mainly to climbing training during #lockdown, following a rather gruelling program from lattice training, which involves a minimum of an hour’s training for five out of seven days a week (after work). For two weeks in every four, this goes up to 1.5 hours a day. Whenever I’m bored or tired, which happens a lot, I remember the idea of the savings account, and manage to keep going. So what is the savings account for in this case? Mainly just being the best climber I can be (given the limitations of being a mid-40s female with a full-time job and a bad back). And yes, now #lockdown has eased somewhat, and climbing locally is OK, I can see obvious improvements in my performance, which make it all worthwhile.

How does this relate to open source gis though, I possibly hear you ask? Well, it’s more a work ethos than anything specific, particularly when I’m wading through stuff that’s new to me, or difficult. Cutting corners, or doing a half-arsed job, are all withdrawals from the savings account. Taking the time to really understand something? That’s a deposit.

The flipside of this is that sometimes you just can’t make that deposit. Maybe you’re literally too tired to train, or to think straight. Maybe you’ve over-committed by agreeing to give five different presentations over three conferences, one of which you’re also helping to organise, in the space of two weeks (ahem). It’s not the end of the world though. Missing one deposit is not going to stop you from meeting your target. The key thing is to give yourself the space you need, and then pick it right back up again. Remember also that it’s counter-productive to save for too many things at once- it’s better to limit yourself!

I won’t labour the point any longer, suffice to say that “this one simple hack” has helped me have a surprisingly productive #lockdown, and that having these “long-term savings goals” has kept me focused and sane. I am well aware though, that I’ve been in a position of immense privilege, being able to continue life relatively normally over this period. Not everyone has been as lucky.