This morning my boyfriend and I did an activity where he followed me around for a couple of hours and observed as I started the day and did some tasks. (I’ve also done something like that before with a friend who was trying out anthropology.) I suggested it this time because I often find it enlightening to hear an outside perspective on things that I do, and his in particular. And it seems rarer to hear about the details and tactics, versus very high level questions: I often know what projects another person thinks are good, but rarely know what they would do if they got an email asking to hang out from an acquaintance, or if they were feeling antsy, or how they would decide where to start on the project in question, or when to stop.

I also think that it’s easy to have a somewhat silly habit, but then to deal with its oppressiveness by doing it automatically and fast. But then you barely notice it, so it is harder to remember that it’s a problem and fix it. And yet such things build up. And even having someone else watching can make the details of what you are doing—and their defensibility—briefly vivid. For instance, today I quickly noticed myself that I wash my hands way more than is reasonable while making a sandwich, but I do it pretty habitually and don’t even think about it. I just believe that making sandwiches is somehow arduous.

Another good thing about this activity is that where I am focused on the detail of a problem, a new observer can be confused at why I would even think the thing is a problem, or worthy of my time to solve, or why I would assume the constraints that I’m assuming. Which can all be refreshing.

Overall, I found it helpful and enlightening.

But another virtue of this is in the never-ending effort to see what other people’s worlds are like. In hearing someone describe how your world looks to them, you perhaps get to infer something about the landscape of the place that view is coming from.