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.