Earlier, I decided to temporarily stop starting new projects to allocate resources to where I can make the greatest positive impact. This is the promised status report on that enterprise. It contains strategies I developed and the progress I made.
Advice 1: Concentrate on one “Container” at a Time
At the beginning of this project, I identified eight places where tasks and projects “lived”. The pure existence of most of these work-containers is OK. However, the sheer amount of items in them draws energy from my mind, so they have to be drained or completely emptied. That can happen either randomly, which means I work on a task randomly selected across each of the eight containers. Alternatively, I could concentrate on only one container. For me, this strategy gave me a much better feeling of progress because I saw how one of the containers lost items pretty quickly.
The first containers I choose where my smartphone inbox, the architecture list for my main project and the todo.txt.
Advice 2: When Choosing the Next Task, Always Eat the Frog!
When choosing the next task from my current focus-container, I followed the strategy “Eat that frog”: Always select the most ugly, stressful or boring task and finish it first. The initial discipline needed is rewarded by the effect that there are more and more easy, rewarding or interesting tasks left. My feeling regarding the list gets better every day and the work tasks get more exciting. Sometimes, I observed that I finished many more items than originally planned because once the first ugly tasks have been finished, it got easier and the momentum of accomplishment made me finish some extra tasks.
Advice 3: Keep the Rest of the Containers at the Same Level
Advice 1 states to focus on one container at a time and advice 2 recommends to choose the most boring or ugly task within this container. These two tips alone leave a dangerous gap in the process of working myself to “task-box zero”: It’s possible to work on one container while the others are growing with new tasks. Hence, the third advice is: Keep all the other containers at the same level. To accomplish that, new incoming tasks sometimes gain priority and have to be worked on before working on older container-tasks. It’s important to make real progress, not just shifting work from one side to the other.
Here’s an update of my progress regarding the “containers”:
- 26 tasks and projects in todo.txt: Only 6 tasks left! This list was one of my first choices to work on because it’s supposed to only be an inbox.
- 25 tasks and projects in an OneNote page regarding my main project: I finished a lot of small items here and rearranged the rest, so that there are only 7 projects left now. I added reminders to my calendar so that I will keep on working on those projects to finally get rid of them.
- 1 OneNote page that was originally designed to be a tracking list for my projects: Gone! Turns out it really didn’t bring me any value and the content it already had was only thoughts that could be deleted.
- 16 projects in an OneNote page for one of the teams I’m supporting: No progress here yet.
- Android-Phone-Project: No progress here yet.
- 17 tasks and projects in a list in my phone: Gone! I finished all the tasks it contained. Now, this is a real inbox again (which feels great!)
- 30 tasks and projects in my main project list in my organizer: No progress here yet. Clean desk: I’m leaving for Javaland tomorrow, so a clean desk is not that much of an issue.
I’m pretty happy about my progress so far and the positive effects are starting to show: The feeling of “Man, I really have a lot of things to do” is much more organized now. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. However, a little disclaimer here, I don’t expect much progress in the next week because of the Javaland.