I'm finding that a few minutes of reflection from time to time goes a long ways.
My natural tendency is to get into motion, to take action, to do things. But, I'm starting to see that I jump on trivial and mostly useless stuff sometimes for the desire to be in motion.
I was doing a review of my last week, and I came to a pretty amazing conclusion. If I'm working on big, important stuff with deadlines, the maintenance and day-to-day stuff naturally fills in the cracks, and things are good.
However, when my highest priority is maintenance/fill-in-the-cracks type stuff, I don't get as much done. Surprisingly, when I have less to do, even the little stuff doesn't get fully done.
So I'm starting to realize - just jumping into action without reflection isn't always such a good thing, unless it's clear what the most important thing to work on is.
It's tricky, because two of my largest projects are in a holding pattern. I've got no deadlines/deliverables for them right now, I'm waiting on other people to get back to me.
I didn't really anticipate this happening. My most time-sensitive thing to do right now is to reply to all my email and get the inbox to zero.
Of course, that's not particularly inspiring, nor does it feel particularly important. (I mean, it is important - it just doesn't feel important.)
I'm sitting in a cafe here in Kuala Lumpur called "The Coliseum" - really cool place, built in 1920, very 1920's feel to it. I'm not sure what I ought to be working on. I have a dozen things I could do, and I was just sitting and thinking for 15 minutes.
At first, I thought - huh, that's no good, I'm burning 15 minutes just thinking.
Then I reconsidered. Wait a second, that's exactly what I should be doing. Thinking and sorting out what the most important stuff is, and then getting on top of that. Then, inevitably when I'm busy, I'll reply to all the emails when I'm taking breaks from the big stuff.
I like being in motion, like taking action. When I'm idle and not explicitly relaxing, I go a little crazy. But now I'm realizing - no, sitting and thinking is exactly the right thing to do when it's not clear what's important. That's good time that should be embraced, not bad time to be fought. Otherwise you risk running the hamster wheel for a while.
Want to hear one of the strangest things I've found by time tracking?
Often, a really big and important task will only take 20 minutes of time to do when I sit down to get it done.
The thing is, it's not really 20 minutes. It's 20 minutes of action, after already spending three hours thinking about it over the course of a few days.
But it dawns on me - the hardest part of many hazy tasks is figuring out what to do. Almost any time we look at a hard task, our mind runs through the quick options and makes a decision.
A lot of times, we leave things alone if there's no great action to take. But, that means we're probably duplicating the thinking part of the effort many, many times.
I'm sitting at my desk in my RV. It's nice out, but the RV is in direct sunlight, so it's hot inside. The fan is on maximum speed, which cools me down a little bit at the cost of it being really loud. Two seconds ago I checked my email. I also checked my email ten seconds ago. Thirty seconds ago I thought about how I should make lunch, even though I've already eaten lunch. In other words, my mind is doing everything it can to avoid writing.
I'm not really in the mood to work, but I'm even less inclined to write. When my mind is in programming mode, I find it very difficult to switch from talking-to-computers mode to talking-to-humans mode. Last week, as you may have noticed, I didn't post anything. I slapped together a post, read it over, decided it was really crappy, and just skipped the week.
Now I'm writing, though, and I'll tell you why.