Calendar – Litemind Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Happy New Year, Every Week Tue, 01 Jan 2008 11:54:24 +0000 If it takes you one year between each time you think about your goals and your life, pretty soon you'll run out of years. Sad but true, but here are the good news.

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Happy New Year, Every Week

The beginning of the year is a great opportunity for a brand new start; it’s the time most of us set new goals and get all fired up and motivated again.

By the end of January, however, that feeling of freshness of the new year is long gone. Many of us don’t even remember the goals we had set, let alone achieve them. How can we keep that feeling of novelty throughout the year so we can follow through our goals?

Years Fly By

When we look back at the goals we set and forgot about, some of us may get a little disappointed but we all move on. Anyone can handle such a mild disappointment once a year. However, if we keep postponing our goals year after year, at some point life will eventually catch up with us: We don’t have many years to live.

If it takes you one year between each time you think about your goals and your life, pretty soon you’ll run out of years. Sad but true, but here’s the good news:

That doesn’t mean that your life is short:
it’s short only if you measure it in years.

Reviewing Your Goals Is Not Enough

What if we review our goals throughout the year, then? Traditional goal setting literature tells us that it’s critical that we not only set goals, but keep reviewing them. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but let me suggest something different.

Even if we review our New Year’s resolutions regularly, this always has a feeling of being an intermediate step. There’s no real sense of completion until it’s time to set new expectations again, at the next new year. Even if we review our goals regularly, we’re still in a “yearly mindset”.

In Search of a Better Life Heartbeat

What I am proposing here is dropping the year altogether as a unit of measurement for our goals.

What I realized is that yearly goals are out of sync with the rhythm of many of modern life’s demands. The year may be meaningful for farmers and their crops, but frankly, I think it does more harm than good anchoring personal goals around it. Years are way too spaced out; we may be better off with a shorter time unit to serve as our personal lives’ heartbeat.

Author Peter Russell goes all the way and measures his age not in years, but in days. From his website:

“[…] I can hold a day’s experience in mind quite easily. Trying to go back and take stock of a whole year is much harder. Numerous incidents and discoveries are inevitably forgotten.

I also find it far more meaningful to think that I have lived through nearly twenty thousand days this life, rather than 50 years. And it reframes the future. I have — probably — thousands of days still to come. Thousands of new days to discover, enjoy and learn from. […]”

The Week is My Best Shot

Although I find Peter’s idea of counting life in days truly inspiring, I doubt its practicality for most of us. What about tracking life in weeks?

The week is a great fit for most of modern life’s demands. It’s the shortest practical and meaningful cycle of our lives, both for personal life and work. If you think about it, there’s always a feeling of closure at weekends, as well as a feeling of “fresh start” on Mondays. For me, a week seems the perfect life heartbeat: it’s short enough to keep our goals fresh and active; and long enough to do something about them.

The challenge, then, is to promote the week to a first-class time cycle as much as possible. Some specific steps I am taking to raise my “week-awareness”:

  • Calculate age in weeks, not years. Just like Peter Russell described, counting life in smaller time increments has a strong psychological effect. I enjoy the feeling of knowing that every week is a great new opportunity to start afresh to achieve my goals. To help in the age calculation, there are many resources online, such as here or here. (At the time of this writing, I am 1624 weeks old.)
  • Use a week-based calendar. David Seah’s excellent Compact Calendar is a greatly designed calendar that focuses heavily on weekly planning — definitely worth checking out for everyone.
  • Use ISO week dates. Instead of ’01/Jan/2008′, how about ‘2008-W01-2’ (meaning: 2008, week 1, Tuesday). This is surely weird at first, but I’m really looking forward to using this date system. An ISO date converter will definitely come handy. Adopting the ISO 8601 Week Calendar has some interesting side effects, such as knowing the days of the week without needing to resort to cheap tricks. Note: for a long time I have been looking to adopting an eccentric geeky quirk— you know, like speaking Esperanto or using Dvorak keyboards. This is just the perfect opportunity. 🙂
  • Integrate goal setting in weekly and daily reviews. Although I am a regular practitioner of Getting Things Done reviews and love them, I was always concerned with the excessive focus on tasks and projects. Actively tracking goals will bring a new light to reviews.
  • Stay aware of new opportunities. Weekly thinking can create some interesting opportunities for personal growth. For example, I’m interested in how I can integrate holidays and other seasonal events into regular weeks. Wedding anniversary? A bit every week. Taxes? Keep records always updated. And so on.
  • Connect with vision and values more often. Remember that having short-term goals does not mean dropping your long-term vision. Since goals derive from vision and values, that will be an opportunity to be in touch with them much more often.
  • Fully integrate Kaizen as a way of life. The ultimate goal for all this is to create a better framework for making practicing Kaizen easier, meaning centering life around small, continuous improvement steps. By doing so, goals have more to do with evolving habits than with big one-time achievements.

A Brand New Start, Every Week

Of course the idea is not to completely forgo our yearly calendar — there are many aspects of our lives that are centered on it, and will continue to be so. But there’s no reason to buy the notion that goals have to be that way, too. By breaking free of the yearly mindset, you give yourself many more opportunities to start over — many more opportunities to follow through this time.

Happy New Week!

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How to Become a Human Calendar Mon, 03 Sep 2007 21:30:53 +0000 Mentally finding out the day of the week for any date is a skill you can easily learn. You don’t need to be an autistic genius – all it takes is basic memorization effort and some trivial math. When I first learned this technique many years ago, I did it just for fun. With time, […]

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How to Become a Human Calendar

Mentally finding out the day of the week for any date is a skill you can easily learn. You don’t need to be an autistic genius – all it takes is basic memorization effort and some trivial math.

When I first learned this technique many years ago, I did it just for fun. With time, I learned to enjoy the convenience of not needing a calendar anymore. It’s far more useful than I first thought, and with just a little practice, you’ll be able to find out the days of the week much faster than when reaching for a calendar.

The Method

To find out the days of the week for any date, use the formula:

[day of week] = (yearcode + monthcode + day) mod 7

If you’re not math-inclined, this may look quite scary at first, but don’t worry: using the formula is straightforward. Let’s walk through each one of of its parts.

Month and Year Codes

The month codes are one of the formula’s most troublesome parts, since they don’t follow a clear logic. We’ll have to memorize them, but don’t worry with that just yet, as we will focus on an easy way to do this later. For now, here they are for reference:

  • January: 1
  • February: 4
  • March: 4
  • April: 0
  • May: 2
  • June: 5
  • July: 0
  • August: 3
  • September: 6
  • October: 1
  • November: 4
  • December: 6

We also need the year code, which are also apparently arbitrary. You shouldn’t also worry about memorizing them at this point. For now, here are the ones you’ll most likely use:

  • 2008: 2
  • 2009: 3
  • 2010: 4
  • 2011: 5
  • 2012: 0
  • 2013: 1

Days of the Week

The result is always a number from 0 to 6, and its interpretation couldn’t be any easier:

  • 1: Sunday; 1st day of week
  • 2: Monday; 2nd day of week, and so on.
  • 3: Tuesday
  • 4: Wednesday
  • 5: Thursday
  • 6: Friday
  • 0: Saturday

The Calculation

Let me show you how the formula works with an example: December 25, 2008.

Step 1: Get the codes for month and year. According to the code tables, December is 6 and 2008 is 2.

Step 2: Apply the numbers in the formula:

  1. [day of week] = (yearcode + monthcode + day) mod 7
  2. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 25) mod 7
  3. [day of week] = 33 mod 7; see below if you don`t know what ‘mod’ is
  4. [day of week] = 5

5 means Thursday. That’s the day of the week for December 25, 2008.

Tips for Faster Calculation

In case you’re unfamiliar with the modulo (mod) operator, all it does is give you the remainder of a division. Take, for example, 17 mod 7. If you divide 17 by 7, you get 2 and a remainder of 3. So, 17 mod 7 = 3.

Now, if you don’t like the idea of performing divisions mentally, there’s hope: you don’t really need to divide by 7 to get the number’s modulo. All you need is to cast out sevens of the number. That is: take the closest multiple of seven below your number and just take the difference between them. For example, in 17 mod 7, the closest multiple of 7 below 17 is 14. Casting 14 out of 17, there’s a leftover of 3. Therefore, 17 mod 7 = 3.

An additional tip to speed up the calculation: Instead of summing up all the three numbers and calculating the modulo thereafter, as the formula suggests, do it slightly differently: don’t wait until you have a big number to calculate its modulo. You can cast out sevens as you go. Let’s do the same calculation we did above (December 25, 2008), but casting out sevens as we go.

  1. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 25); let’s cast out sevens for 25 before we go.
  2. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 4);
  3. [day of week] = (8 + 4); let’s cast out sevens for 8 before we go
  4. [day of week] = (1 + 4);
  5. [day of week] = 5

Although there are extra steps, you will always work with small numbers, speeding up the process.

Adjustment for Leap Years

The only caveat in the formula (and it had to have one, right?) is that there will be an adjustment when dealing with leap years: you need to subtract one from the result, for the months of January and February. The other months are calculated just as any normal year.

Memorizing the Month Codes

The math is pretty easy, but unless you memorize the codes, you won’t be able to perform the entire technique in your head. The good news is that the month codes never change, so you just need to memorize them once and reuse them over and over again. For an easy and fun way of memorizing lists, I strongly suggest the pegging memory system. We’ll use it here, so if you’re unfamiliar with it, please take a look first.

For the peg system to work, our challenge is to come up with images for the months. Here are my suggestions, based on either similarities in word pronunciation or on cultural traditions.

  • January: Jacket
  • February: Freeze
  • March: March
  • April: Bunny
  • May: Flowers
  • June: Dune
  • July: Jungle
  • August: Barbecue
  • September: Scepter
  • October: Doberman
  • November: Turkey
  • December: Santa Claus

If these images don’t make much sense to you, feel free to substitute by your own. Remember that the list doesn’t need to follow any pattern or logic; the only requirement is that each association must come easily and quickly to you.

If you did like the images I suggested, here’s a graphical list to help you visualize and memorize them as pegs:

Months Memory Pegs

(click for larger image)

All right, now that we have the pegs, the next step is to create fun and remarkable scenes combining the month images with our previously learned number images. Just to illustrate, let me give you a personal example on how to do that:

August. Looking at our month code table, we see the code for August is 3. Let’s associate ‘barbecue’ (for August) with ‘heart’ (for number 3): Barbecue and heart? The first thing that comes to mind is a childhood memory of the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I always wondered what the bad guy did with those living throbbing hearts he extracted from people in that dark ritual. No more: what about a great barbecue outside, with pulsating hearts on the grill and everybody getting drunk with kegs of Kali Ma’s blood! Childhood memories work wonders for your memory. 😉

This technique only works if you use your own imagination, so now it’s up to you. Always remember to make it personal and fun.

Bonus: Extend the Technique for Any Year

For practical purposes, I memorize only the code for the current year. When a new year arrives and you need its code, you can find it pretty easily: find out the day for current year’s December 31th and just sum one and you’ll have the day of the week for next year’s January 1st. Now, the only variable left in the formula is the year code. Don’t forget about the adjustment for leap years when using this trick.

If, unlike myself, you want to go really wild and mentally find out the days for any year, you’ll need to grow some extra math and memorization muscles. Here’s the formula for the year code:

yearcode = (centurycode + [last two digits of year] + ([last two digits of year] div 4)) mod 7

‘Div’ is the operator for integer division. Just like ‘mod’ gets the remainder of a division, ‘div’ gets its integer quotient. For example, 17 div 7 = 2 (with a remainder of 3).

The century code follows a recurrent pattern, and can be used for any date in the Gregorian calendar:

  • 1600s: 6
  • 1700s: 4
  • 1800s: 2
  • 1900s: 0
  • 2000s: 6; repeating the pattern
  • 2100s: 4; 6-4-2-0 pattern goes on

With that, you have a complete mental calendaring system. This is a handy tool that, once learned, can be used for your entire lifetime. Try it just once or twice, and you’ll see that it really isn’t as much work as it looks like.

Update: If you want the year codes automatically calculated for you, or simply want to see the math in action, I created a downloadable Excel spreadsheet (44 KB) that does exactly that.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Become a Human Calendar.

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