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a different kind of swarm  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22179
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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About seven years ago my productivity hit a low spot. A woman I know sent me an email. She had been studying shamanic stuff and said she and her instructor shared a "vision" about me. Skipping past the obvious question of "what the hell does 'vision' mean", here is what was seen in this vision. They found my body (this does not mean that the body is dead or alive, it is just me) and opened it up. Apparently this is a big part of what goes on in shamanic visions, you find somebody and you open them up to see what's inside. Inside of me was a swarm.

When she told me of this I asked "a swarm of bees?" - "that was the same question I asked! The key is, we could not tell what it was a swarm of. So it could be bees, but it could be anything. Since we don't have any more information, you have to figure it out yourself."

I'm not typically a follower of woo woo stuff, but I have to confess that this message was on my mind a lot. Eventually, I decided that the swarm was my todo list. My todo list had grown so large that it would take hundreds of people more than a decade to finish the things on the list.

So I shifted gears a bit. I changed the highest priority on my list to "reduce swarm". So rather than grind away on the big project at the top - I focused on:

- do a lot of tiny things that can then be removed from the list
- finish things that needed just a little bit more to be finished
- and this is the most important: convert variables to constants

My productivity went up by a factor of ten. And a year later it tripled from that.

This thing about "convert variables to constants" is the thing that I really want to clarify today. The thing is that sometimes you might try to do something and think "if I can get steve's help on this, the task will become ten times smaller." And steve says "yeah - I think I could do that - probably some time next week. I'll drop you a line when I have a moment." Steve's contribution is a variable. And if it has been a month, it is time to shit or get off the pot. Either steve does his part, or I take the long road. The alternative is to wait some more - and the waiting is the problem. The mission is now to get that item off of the list. One way or another.

Sometimes "working smarter" has to be replaced with brute force ("working harder"). But when a thing gets done, it is converted from a variable to a constant.

A "variable" is anything that is not done, or it could be a thing where a decision needs to be made. Variables can come in infinite flavors, but usually has to do with other people.

Does this make sense to anyone other than me? Anybody have other examples of "variables" that can be made into "constants"?


 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1659
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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This is similar to the discussions that have been going on about decision fatigue - the concept that you have a certain amount of mental energy to get you through the day, and that taking up that energy on small things erodes your ability to make progress on the things that matter. Even basics like eliminating choices about what you wear in the morning can make a big difference. I have 3 suits the same, I wear the first shirt from the cupboard that is clean and a tie. Essentially a uniform for my day job.

Division of labour is another one - in our house typically some jobs fall to me and some to my wife. We don't usually try and take turns because you end up with the inevitable "is it my turn this week or yours?" fatigue...

I remember reading a case study of a guy who ran his own business. He was killing himself keeping up with his customers, one in particular was taking about 50% of his time and was worth about 25% of his total business. He sacked the (profitable!) customer.

One way I like to think about things is in terms of an opportunity cost - people often do this in finance, but not so often in terms of their time. I had a chance to do some tutoring recently, being paid £40 an hour in my holiday, for two hours per day. Trouble was they wanted a morning session and an afternoon session, and while I would have ended up ahead financially I was forgoing the opportunities to push my own projects forward due to the time commitment (especially the wasted travel time).

Short version - simplification and streamlining is good. Pick fewer things and do those things well.
 
Pia Jensen
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resource check and alignment
 
Berry Chechy
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Unfortunately lack of money is a constant which makes everything a bloody variable.
 
Pia Jensen
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Berry Chechy wrote:


Unfortunately lack of money is a constant which makes everything a bloody variable.


Barter? Trade? More and more, people are going that direction.... Don't let money be an obstacle.
 
Pia Jensen
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Maybe

Permies need to create their own "Ithaca" dollars they can use for local trade on services, products to use outside the project area in local economy.
 
Berry Chechy
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it's not just my lack of money but other people's as well, for example I need goat fencing, pallets would work for that, so I got to pick some up but there are these two guys who go around every 3 or 4 days and gather all the pallets before I get a chance. Plus there are two of them, I got there before those guys once, but ever try to haul a pallet down off a tall pile and put it in the back of an Isuzu Trooper by yourself? I need 60 pallets and I can fit 5 in my truck that's 12 trips by myself if I can get them down. It's not worth the store's while to deliver a bunch of them when you've got two guys who'll go around twice a week and get them all. Electric fencing would be a better option, but when no one has money and you have to barter, I can assure you electric fencing is not something anyone would barter, it's one of those fundamentals. I need to work in the bloody oil fields to support the farm. - a lot of people have to do just that.

So I guess it's decision time, not get goats? not get fencing? Stake the goats?

I do barter here and there, someone had comfrey and I had rhubarb... not quite fencing.....

why does fencing suck!!!
 
Pia Jensen
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Berry Chechy wrote:Stake the goats?

I do barter here and there, someone had comfrey and I had rhubarb... not quite fencing.....

why does fencing suck!!!


lol.... because the paradigm you exist in is skewed in favor of capitalism. Latin Americans use exiting live trunks to string barbed wire on most often or the metal interior frame cement/rock columns they prepare themselves... which last forever... as do the live trees, mostly... cost of materials is much lower than you are experiencing. Some countries also have purchase options that include quotas, pay over so many weeks or months, no credit application required.

the paradigm in the US is not a helping paradigm. all the more reason for permie or missoula dollars.... there's a town in Washington that established their own currency and participants were doing well last I saw.

 
William Bronson
Posts: 1417
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Berry, maybe you could find those two guys and see what would motivate them to deliver the pallets you need.
Or maybe another waste stream would work.
If fencing the goat is resource intensive, maybe some other project is more easily achieved, and that project will increase your resources.

Eat the crumbs and grow large enough to swallow the whole pie.

I am struggling to fence in my own lot. I think I'm one gravel load away from having everything I need.
It has taken more than a year, during which I have collected free materials, planted ground covers,and totally changed my design.
Walking miles a foot at a time....
 
Berry Chechy
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Here is an update on some of my variables. I've had about 70 pallets delivered. So the fencing is underway! One variable rapidly becoming a constant. (and there was much rejoicing... yay!!)

One thing that I wanted to say as an observation that I've made as I work on this property is that permaculture is catching on, at least it is where I live. And as permie stuff becomes trendy, it is in danger of becoming elitist, it certainly is here. For example the things that used to be free or cheap are starting to cost. So those wood chips that arborists couldn't get rid of, they are now charging for. One guy was bragging to me how he built a micro house for someone, using free wood that he milled, the house is 180 square feet, and he charged $70,000 for it. (In the 70's when my parents bought their first house 3 bedrooms 2 baths and unfinished basement - new - it was $29,000.)That $70,000 micro house prices everyone right out right there because word will get around and everyone who builds them will start charging that much.

Maybe I'll be able to get this place up and running before the trend is in full swing and the prices for everything quadruples, before wood chips become a "luxury", or they start charging for pallets. There are people who recognize the rise of permicaculture and to them it is simply a trend they can cash in on.

Maybe these observations need their own thread, but they were sparked by this thread as I try to make my variables into constants.



 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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My local "garage sale" FaceBook group included somebody who last night was trying to shift a pile of pallets for $6.00 each (large ones) or $4.00 each (small ones).

Fortunately I've made two "large" free pallet scores (about 10 pallets each time) recently and one of them looks to be an ongoing though intermittent low-volume source. I'll never have enough for fencing -- and like Berry, I can only fit five per trip in my light SUV -- but it helps.

For me the variable-turned-constant this year is the question of mulch. Last year I had to gather my mulch in the woods, and was constantly short, making every planting task a scrape-and-fetch ordeal. This year, the endless*pile of arborist wood chips has eliminated that variable. Now "..and then mulch it" is just an unconsidered constant with every planting project.

* Sadly the pile of chips is not in fact endless. It's a big pile, but I've used about a quarter of it already. It will last me this whole growing season, but by next year I'll be back in fetch-and-scrape mulching heck if I can't source another pile of chips.
 
Jason Machin
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so kill off all the little minions before you get to the big bad boss.

and i completely understand how people can be variables.... people *sigh*
 
Berry Chechy
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this has been a big deal for me, the decision fatigue and just the sheer amount of urgent things that need to get done. So what I have found that has helped me - it might not help anyone else but it works for me is, I broke up the acreage into sectors and I go from one sector to another everyday - I make the rounds so to speak. I spend 1 hour in each sector doing what I can until I can knock out the bigger things. Then I have the peace of mind that I have gotten a lot done and eventually it will all get done if I keep working at it a little at a time. I even made up a roster. That way I don't get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I have to do.
I forgot to say thank you to Paul for starting this thread - it helped me to identify what I was struggling with and get organized better - which really was huge for me
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2500
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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To me, as a market farmer, the ongoing variables are weeds, and "do I have anything to take to market this week".

The constant is that every time I am in the garden, I am do some weeding. I might not keep up with the weeds, some areas might be weeded perfectly and others not at all, but I am constantly weeding.

Every Friday I go to the fields and find something to take to market.... Early in the spring I might only have chenopod weeds. Later in the season I might only have amaranth weeds. The constant is that there is always something to take, even if I need to educate the potential customers about how to use the crop.
 
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