Saturday, October 24, 2009

More getting stuff done by doing what I most want to do experiments

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago (sorry, no attribution - can't find the article again) about trying to always do what you want to be doing. I used to do "round robin" style scheduling of my time: keeping a single to-do list and cycling through it (and sometimes just finishing small tasks outright).

I have always thought that I needed to apply some meta-level discipline to get tasks that I don't enjoy as much done in a timely way. Scheduling work is not so difficult because I usually have just 3 or 4 active customers, and I enjoy most of my work. Other things like yard work (I prefer new projects over maintenance) got the round-robin treatment, and even recreation (I like to hike, cook/eat, read, and watch movies) activities used to be scheduled round-robin style to a (very) small degree.

Lately, I have been experimenting with not doing any meta-level scheduling. Now when I finish an activity I start the new activity that is what I most want to do. The reason that this works is that even activities that I don't enjoy as much (e.g., I just did some maintenance work on our deck) actually get done because it feels so good to clear them from my to-do list!

Work-wise, this new "non scheduling" approach seems to also be working fine. I very much enjoy working, but some work is more fun :-) Still, I think that I am getting a small up-tick in productivity, and I find that I still get around to all tasks. One reason that this works is that some work tasks really are very difficult technically for me, and if I hit them right when I feel like a harder problem, things that I thought would be very difficult turn out to be simpler.

I was motivated to write up my experiments a few nights ago when I re-watched the documentary "The Hero's Journey" on Joseph Campbell's life and work. One of Campbell's teachings is to "follow your bliss," that is, to do in life what you really want to do. Listening to Joseph Campbell is like getting a tune up :-)

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