I’m a big fan of slack & overprovisioning. It applies to systems as well as individuals—if you’re tuned for 100% utilization at anything less than lifetime peak instant, you’re going to run out at some point. Worse, fragmentation of capacity (if you’re heavily-scheduled, all the free slots are spread out and small, and you have to move things to make use of the room you have) and context-switching costs can be significant, in addition to real value.
I’m not sure I share the framework of “avoid dipping into reserves”—this is what reserves ARE. they’re the slack that lets you be efficient.
I think “tiered levels of reserves with increasing costs” is a more general description, out of which the “frequently dip into short-term reserves during normal operations” (even biological cycles of sleeping and eating involve that) and “hesitate before dipping into longer-term reserves because it might signal either something else avoidably wrong or the need to change other plans to compensate” fall from different points in the continuum.
I like this conceptualization a whole lot. Structure your reserves such that the replenish rate matches the frequency of need: it’s OK to dip into daily reserves once a day or so, and monthly reserves about once a month. If you have recently used more of your reserves (or something is coming up that you predict will need more), you should restructure a bit to increase your replenishment rate.
Do you think this is important enough to get reworked into the post itself?
I think it’d be useful to describe the model of capacity, headroom, and replenishment that this is based on, but I’m not sure it’s universal enough to put a lot of effort into, and it doesn’t invalidate the post in any way. So, I guess “no”.It probably IS worth mentioning that this idea has an unpleasant implication, which is worth accepting head-on. You are giving up efficiency to account for variance in your emotional costs. You won’t always use your slack (if you do, it’s not slack), and from a naive standpoint, that’s “wasted”.
To elaborate on this it is possible to have ongoing projects that are easy to backburner, and thus can use resources when available but can easily be dropped if something more important comes up. This doesn’t totally recover the value of the lost time (if the flexible project was more important you would have chosen it already), but when doing the math on which projects have the highest payoff, “can use excess resources without suffering when they’re not available” is a good trait that might merit displacing a theoretically more important but less flexible project.
In this case reserves meant something like “the stuff that doesn’t automatically replenish within a week.” In the case of money, this’d literally be “the amount of money you make in a week minus living expenses.” Sometimes you make bigger purchases, but you should reflect before you do.
It’s a bit subtler/weirder for non-money things. There is some rate at which you (or, at least, I) can call in favors, or pull all-nighters, or deal with intense social drama, before it starts affect my ability to accomplish my usual day-to-day-activities. For example, if stay up late cramming to finish one assignment for work, I can still go into work the next day and do my job. If I did that for a week, I’d become less effective.
What counts as “reserves” depends both on how many recurring obligations you have, and how much resources you have.