The Beginning of the End-milestone

We make up deadlines, sure; we make up year ends, too.

It’s December 1st, 2019 - the first day of the last month of — let’s be real — an objectively tumultuous year.

I wrote in Metric about “The Temporal Midpoint of the Sprint” after reading Daniel H. Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which has inspired me to think about the role of milestones in life and in design work. The gist is that any time period — a project deadline, a year, a sprint — is defined by at least three milestones: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Once imagined, we physically react to such milestones, producing serotonin at the beginning because of the optimism and excitement (or, at least, eu-stress) at starting something new, and so on.

In my post, I write about how we can use this knowledge to create project structure to both optimize productivity and team health. What I took for granted even as I was writing about how we ought to create milestones willy-nilly to our benefit was the ephemeral nature of that milestone: we make milestones up.

We make up deadlines, sure; we make up year ends, too.

Even so, we share this sense of being on the downward slope. 2019 is mostly in the rear-view mirror. Our time is running-out on making charitable contributions, tallying-up our resolution scores, daydreaming about the ones we’ll make in thirty days. We all got older. We all did something right. We all did plenty wrong. But the only reason I can write this ho-hum with any reasonable expectation you’ll relate is because we choose — we choose — to adhere to the same calendar.

I think this is liberating. December, by virtue of nothing else other than being the last page on a calendar, connotes a common sensibility - that is, even if a little bittersweet (as are ends of things), trends toward optimism. Maybe things can be different, better. We get to start fresh. All we have to do is wait thirty days.

But when you think of the ephemeral quality of the milestone, doesn’t waiting thirty days seem arbitrary? What’s the hold up? Why wait?

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. . . . The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time. — Seneca

Craft virtuously.

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Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield