The Goldfish Model
2 min read

The Goldfish Model

I went to an AI governance hackathon in March and I really liked the Goldfish Model we used as the hackathon's schedule. I feel like my ideal routine could be to write a little memo every day because when I struggle with actually getting things done. When I look back at the past six months, I was struck by not knowing what I've been doing. So I think doing this will help me get something tangible done every day and move the ball forward. This was used for answering a research question you want to know about, but I've used this schedule for writing a python game or doing life admin tasks too.

The Goldfish model looks like:

  • At 10am, you start at a high level of brainstorming by setting a timer for 3 mins and writing down any idea that comes up that you want to figure out.
  • then slowly narrow it down to a core thing you want to figure out at lunch time and discuss with people to vet it out.
  • then is the expansion part where you think about different considerations, cause and effects, and implications of this topic until 2:30pm where you pair up to talk through things you're unsure about.
  • For then on to 4:30, you produce a one page memo with what you figured out that day and give a casual 3 min presentation to the rest of the group in the form of a lightning talk or demo.

I like this schedule because it forces you to come up with something at the end of the day. Even if you get stuck, you know that all you need to do is to show a little something that you did. The scope is narrow enough and the time is defined well enough that you can't work on super crazy big ideas. So you are working on the most important thing that actually matters to you.

I think this model addresses a lot of my problems:

  • not knowing what to work on is solved by a 3 minute brainstorm and choosing something small and doable that I can do in a day.
  • getting stuck and not knowing how to move forward is solved by thinking about the implications of the topic and having a small scope.
  • not actually getting things done is solved by a constraint of a having to produce something at the end of the day. when it's 3pm and you still haven't gotten anything done, you can just make the most out of the next hour to have something small to show!

The pattern here is that focusing on getting one important and small thing helps me actually get things done. I also noticed that I don't spend long on distractions either because I know that all I need to do that day is to get this one thing done, and have I gotten it done yet? no? ok I'll go work on that one thing that matters then!

I've been using the sentence frame, "I will send the link to [a blog post about the goldfish model] as my exit ticket for the day" to my friend at the beginning of the day to make what I want to do concrete and it feels like someone is invested in my success.

I've been finding this framing helpful, alongside hosting friends at my house to do a routine together, and going to a place away from home to do work, so I'll write up my thoughts on those too.

I listened to Overdrive - Post Malone while writing this post.