Coping: Mastering Your “Do Ratios”

It’s true, of course, that everyone has the same number of hours in the day. It’s also true, however, that not everyone gets the same amount of “work” done. I got to thinking about this following our Monday discussion of how “work probably doesn’t “weigh” anything.”

After a bit of personal soul-searching, I came to an interesting point of view – and some tools – that you might find useful.

Soul-searching first: I got to thinking about my life lately and I noticed that a good deal of why I “do” is mental in nature. I trade stocks, write, plan, think, then trade, write, and plan some more.

Then I looked at my personal surroundings: Hmmm… a bit messier than I would like.

About here I remembered an old definition of “stress” that I had come across years back while doing research on something-or-other: Stress can be defined as the difference between where/what we are and our internally-idealized definitions and expectations.

I came to the conclusion (while working at cleaning my shop) that it was a kind of “source of stress.” In order to eliminate the stress, I needed to reorganize the shop along certain principles of organization. Fine, at least so far.

Then it happened: I had a compulsion to look at reader emails and approve the latest comments in our discussion section.

“Oh-oh! George, you idiot, this is the classic distraction syndrome setting in. You need to develop a user-friendly way to deal with this…”

So here’s what I did:

I looked at my surroundings (which are nice enough, though mainly electronic) and wrote down how much time (on average) my “head” is in the electronics (writing, trading, thinking about projects) versus how much time was being spent on the “physical doingness” part.

Honesty hurts: I found when I ran it through the “George don’t BS yourself filter” that I probably average 95% of my time “inside my head” and the other 5% of my time “outside my head.”

Not that this is bad per se, but when I looked around, I got to wondering “How much cooler would this place be if I devoted 30% of my time to working on/at my physical surroundings?

I calculated my recent “do ratio” at about 20-to-1 (inside head thinking versus outside head doing).

After resolving to change this, perhaps even going to a 1:1 ratio over time, I started to think about people I know and their “Do Ratios.”

Sure enough, there was something HUGE to be learned.

I thought about the two most recent U.S. Presidents. The one before the current officeholder I’m certain was spending a large portion of his time “inside his head.” The current officeholder, I’m pretty sure, spends more time in the “outside world.”

A friend of mine operates a highly successful website. But it requires 110% of available time in order to make it all work. This person, too, has the same affliction I have: “Lots of time inside head” while on the outside “support staff” are taking care of the physical (outside head) things.


Then I confronted two additional facts that deserved serious reflection (and some corrective action on my part): The productive metric for both the “inside head time” and the “out in physical world time.”

If you’ve been around Department of Defense contracting, you may have heard of the “quad chart.” In the corporate world, we use something quite similar called a SWOT chart.

The term SWOT stands for?

      • Strengths
      • Weaknesses
      • Opportunity
      • Threats

      It is used as a tool for modeling/visualizing how a marketplace is configured.

      When I was in the DC power instrumentation business, for example, we used a SWOT-approach to lay out where our competitors were versus where we (honestly) were ourselves.

      We had a pretty damn good little company, so we were definitely above the middle of the SWOT Chart, but we had some up-and-coming competitors – two of which are shown here and Competitor A and Competitor B:


      We estimated each of the competitor’s revenues – that is how the bubbles are sized – and we obviously saw Competitor A as being the most serious threat and having a good range of products that they were moving into the marketplace.

      With these kinds of tools rattling around, I was then able to do a kind of “personal SWOT” about my “inside head” time. I figured I was really only about 50% productive:


      The focused part is where all the “value” of what George does comes from. But he’s verbose at times and doesn’t concentrate and distill mercilessly at all times.

      The little blue circle means that he also spends unnecessary time looking at used ham radio equipment, looking of schematics of equipment I’m working on, and so forth. The term “radio” is therefore a kind of catch-all for “screwing around on the net,” too.

      Actively trading (as I do a bit ) I don’t need to constantly fill out the spreadsheets that drive some of my trading systems. Especially when the day’s trading range will not move the market to a buy or sell decision point. Yet critically, I spend an inordinate amount of time on tasks like that, and say, did you see the Collins 75-S3B that came up on eBay…?

      Having done the SWOT chart for my “inside time” I decided to do one for my “outside time” which was previously running in the 5% range. As you can see here, I do a little better on the “outside in physical world” time…


      But you will see “radio” is there because the physical world has a 60-foot tower, multiple wire antennas, a storage room with a bit of equipment in it, and a whole electronics bench full of distractions that scream constantly for attention.

      It’s hard to ignore that one because things like the Light Crown Project and the Antigravity Study are a delicious (semi-addictive to my essence) combo of “inside head” and “outside head” activity.

      Still, even though the shop is not-yet looking like a cover for Family Handyman, when Elaine came in last weekend upset that she couldn’t find a pair of pliers in the shop, I led here directly to the “pinching tools” drawer where she eventually settled on a pair of 6” needle nose pliers for her project.

      By the same token, when we were putting in the water heater recently, I collected the tools and moved and connected the new unit in less than 15 minutes. (This time, I made sure to put all the tools back…and this is something I recognize now as one of my major personality flaws. One, by the way, that my Dad has recognized early-on…)

      Whew…feel like it’s been time on a shrink couch?

      No…just a periodic introspection on how to continue to improve because that’s something we can do at any age.

      Fact is, near as I can figure it, there is no “right” or “wrong” Do Ratio.

      But when I don’t see clean and strack – and all arranged in the physical world to totally support “inside head” – it creates a certain kind of stress.

      Having figured how to at least partially resolve it for myself, I thought you might find the discussion useful and informing, as well.

      Now, after one more hour of “inside head” time to sort out the day’s news, and several hours more preparing tomorrow’s report, I will be taking the rest of the day off…”outside my head” where there is much more work to be done.

      Write when you get rich,

      3 thoughts on “Coping: Mastering Your “Do Ratios””

      1. The outside head activity can be very fulfilling, the inside head very exhausting, a good balance, exhilarating.

      2. A pinching tool drawer? this is extreme tool poverty.
        I have a 3 by 9 by 18 drawer of channel lock pliers. Not to included the big channel locks , or the 3 sizes of channel locks on 2 work benches and others in 2 ‘go to’ tool boxes.
        Similar for vise grips, linemans, needle nose, sidecutters, and misc. ( glass, tile etc. )
        The tool–the spare tool –the spare for the spare. all tools –all sizes. Tools to loan ( and never get back ) tools to give away. Drawers of tools.

      3. I understand how convincing your charts can be ,but you have the wrong mindset, you should have a chart that says I’m going to do this and this is what I want to achieve and this is how I’m going to go about doing it

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