Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rough notes on getting things done

Doing an assignment, writing a book, losing weight -- whatever the task is, there's no doubt that it can be hard to get things done. Here's some rough notes -- that I'd like to clean up sometime -- on ideas to make it a bit easier.

  • Build habits. Habits have momentum, and they can suck you into a task without you trying.
  • Associate a place with a task (if you can). That's one good way to build a habit. I go to a local coffeeshop to do PhD writing. That's all I do there, and I don't go there otherwise. I find it quite useful. If it's a place you don't do any other tasks at, it's less likely to trigger habits associated with them.
  • Make the habits generic, so you can always invoke them. If you make the initial task "start writing" (start writing anything - it doesn't matter what), then this applies regardless of what you are writing or what you are writing it for.
  • Minimised the (perceived) next task. Make it easy to start.
  • Doing has momentum. Make the initial task very simple. Simply by continuing to work on it, it can gather momentum and snowball and if that happens you don't have to even think about trying to do next thing.
  • Impose non-negotiable constraints (where possible). The coffeeshop I do my PhD writing at doesn't have any internet access, so I can't stuff around on the net even if I wanted to. (I understand that many tasks require internet access - this is just an example of the general principle). I also don't have Freecell or Solitare etc installed on my computer.
  • Have others around who can see you. That's another thing I suspect is an benefit of writing in a public place... it feels harder to slack off. May not work for some sorts of tasks.
  • Be prepared for initial Suck when getting into any new sort of task / setup. Basically it’s like developing a skill - it's going to take a while to get into it.
  • Learn to recognise and acknowledge when you’re refusing to consider doing something or how to do it, and just pushing it back. and that if you can do this, this could be all that’s required to actually get your major goals done.
  • We seem to have a tendancy to try to figure things out in our heads before starting. This tends to make the task seem to big, and you just end up staring at a blank page or screen. So learn to recognise when you’re doing this.
  • Related to this, there's a tendancy to want to go into a ‘perceptual response’ mode of thinking – you get stuck. (need to do more work to explain this).
  • As a longer-term proposition, try building up desire to achieve what you want to achieve.
  • Try to have “definite critiera” (I need to do more work here to explain what I mean) -– like writing something that reads from start to finish, rather than just a bunch of notes.

No comments:

Post a Comment