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've got a couple speculative projects... no deadline, no pressing need to get it done, no urgency, no clients, no teammates, no collaborators...
No external pressure.
So oftentimes, I look at what comes next, don't see a great option on there, and don't take action. I must've burned 10-20 thinking through my options many times now.
I'm already a fan of doing/shipping quickly, but another reason dawns on me - you wind up duplicating the thinking-it-through part many, many times if you don't.
You know, Era One wasn't as good as it could have been. Oh, I got lots of praise and positive feedback, which was cool and I was grateful. It's a decent work. But I see lots of ways I could've included more, polished more, added more, done more... but I had hit a wall and was in a loop of thinking through the next steps repeatedly, it was good enough, and I just published it.
And you know what? People liked it. I got something of value out into the world.
Compare that to the abandoned, unshipped projects most people have. You've probably got a bunch of those, right? I know I did.
I've got a report I'm going to write up - again, speculative, non-urgent, no deadline, no external pressure - but this report requires some research. It's not hard, I know where to find all the stats and facts. I just need to look them up.
But I haven't done so. Not sure why. It's kind of boring, hard work? And it'll never be urgent. Yeah, that's probably it.
Anyways, it would be fine for me to say "I have more important things, I'm not going to write that" - that's fine, heck, I haven't even explained this speculative project to anyone, no one would be let down at all, in any way.
Or I could just buckle down and do it.
But thinking, re-thinking, duplicating and re-duplicating the effort... no good, no good.
Maybe this doesn't apply when you can't solve the problem yet, and need to give patient thinking to a problem.
But when you know what comes next - the very next step - I think it's key to stop thinking and rethinking and duplicating the thinking effort many times over. You could do 3-5 times as many projects if you only did the necessary thinking once or twice.
I think the duplication of thought is a way for us to make sure that what we want to do is worth. Especially because we don't have an urgent deadline, and we have the *option* of choosing wherever doing something or not, we look for thousands of excuses at the unconscious level for not doing the work. But as you said is more the time that we spend doing it than the time we've spent thinking about it before.
It would be interesting to track this process down to see how much we are abusing it, but I guess the only thing we can do is to train to immediate action. Thanks for another great post.
"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker
There is so much power in this quote. If you've never tracked yourself, you don't even know how much power there is in tracking. I couldn't even explain it adequately. You wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was exaggerating. The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost without any extra effort.
I'm not a believer in "free lunch" and I don't think the universe vibrates things to you just by thinking about them. But the closest thing to a free lunch getting vibrated to you by the universe is writing things down as they happen.
Before I go any further, I need to give you one piece of advice - start small and build up, so you don't overwhelm yourself. This is just being pragmatic. You want to scale up gradually, as I wrote up in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking." You want to build small wins, lock them so they become automatic, and then expand.
I'd have a hard time convincing you of the power of tracking, so I'll just show you. I fill this out every single day.
When you're doing something hard, the effort curve looks something like a bell curve. At first, as you're dabbling in it, you don't put in much effort. Then it progressively gets harder and harder until you finally reach that peak. That's when you "make it" and things start to get a little easier. But we don't always make it to that peak. Sometimes, often, we give up.
Polyphasic sleep was brutally difficult. I tried three times to get on the schedule. The first two times I gave up on day five because it was just too hard and there was no end in sight. Then Steve Pavlina got on the schedule. He announced that on day six it gets easy. I tried again, and sure enough on day six it got easy. It's not that it took no effort after day six, but when the effort required is less and less each day, it's really easy to persevere When it's harder every day, well, that's a different story.
Pickup was like tights, too. At first it was murderously difficult to get a girl to even talk to me. It was painful and showed no signs of getting easier. I stuck through it somehow, and I still remember the day I realized it had gotten easier. I was talking to a friend and told him that pretty much every girl I talked to those days would be attracted to me in some capacity. It struck me that I could have never said that before, and that I had in fact reached that peak of effort and passed it.
It's like climbing a really densely fogged mountain. You have a rough idea of how far you've come, you can see how difficult the patch you're working on is, but you can only have the vaguest idea of where the top is. Maybe it's a day away, maybe it's a year away.