0223 – identify your workflow processes

I woke up at 6am today, and I’m really tired and sleepy now at 1130pm. I guess that’s to be expected. I should’ve taken a nap in the middle of the day, probably. I’m not very good at managing my time. I’m unclear and unfocused and I don’t really order the things on my plate. So I should figure out the proper order of things on my plate, and figure out how to process that incoming information.

How should I process my incoming information? There’s the urgent/important matrix, of course. What are other people waiting for– that’s urgent. What hits my KPIs, that’s also urgent. What will make the biggest difference to us- that’s important. What feels good to finish- that’s not necessarily any of those things, but if I can do those things quickly I build momentum.

Of course, it’s easy to fall into the trap of continuously doing all the unimportant things over and over again… but if they get completed, it’s not so bad, right? Why don’t I eat/swallow the frog (hardest/most unpleasant task) first? I have been able to train myself (somewhat) to go for runs in the morning. Maybe I should just measure that and stick to that really religiously, and then tie “since I did that hard thing, I should do another hard thing immediately after” to it.

I’ve been annoyed slightly by the oversimplistic productivity advice that’s been getting to the front page of Hacker News, but I guess that’s just me being jealous and jealousy is always a reminder that you’re waiting, that you’re not doing the work you know you should be doing. Maybe I haven’t been motivating myself effectively.

What should I have done differently today? I should’ve taken a nap, should’ve taken a break. That much is clear. I have to prepare for things in advance. I feel like I’m sprouting truisms now– I’m saying things that I think I’m supposed to be saying so that I’ll leave myself alone. But I don’t want to leave me alone. What am I trying to weasel out of? Why am I not getting to the good, important, meaty stuff? It’s probably simple- just pain avoidance. I guess I’m writing this right now to try to really tear off the skin of this excuse, and reveal that this pain avoidance is causing me far more pain in the interim and in the long run. Why do I let myself suffer so much? Again- yeah, it’s just short-term time blindness. I AM TIME BLIND. I AM TIME BLIND. THIS MAKES ME MAKE BAD DECISIONS. I NEED TO REMIND MYSELF.

I need to brand it into my skin if necessary. I am time blind, I make bad decisions, I need a prosthetic to help me decide what to do and then I need to stick to it, to respect it. Why do I not stick to it? Why do I not respect it? Maybe I need somebody watching over my shoulder. I should get my wife to do that. Yeah maybe I’ll do just that. For an hour day or so at least. It would be a nice bonding activity (since we work in the same building).

To this day I have not gotten around to partitioning my day into segments where I work on different things throughout the day. I still do not know when I’m most productive- when do I do my best writing? When do I do my best editing? When should I send emails? I actually have no idea! I’ve been winging it every day for 2 years and it seems really silly that I keep doing that, expecting something magical to suddenly appear and improve things. It won’t happen by itself, I have to make it happen.

Okay, how do I do that? Should I start by evaluating my old stuff? That seems like a good idea, and yet that seems like a huge time sink in itself. Okay, so I should MVP that and figure out how to get the max bang for buck within a fixed time frame. And I should also come up with a sketchy solution– how I would attempt solve this problem if I had just inherited it, with no information whatsoever. These two bits would make up the starter pieces of the solution.

When should I reply to calls and emails? I can’t keep doing it throughout the day, that’s really unprofessional (in the sense that it keeps me from ever getting out of the shallow work zone). I suppose I should do a quick re-read of Cal Newport’s stuff and see what he recommends for how to plan deep work. I should have some sort of ritual. I should probably pick just one thing and get really into that one thing, rather than constantly sketch out multiple tasks and then look at that set of multiple tasks proudly.

I really want to solve this problem. It feels like it’s more than I can chew right now, but I’m going to keep trying. Maybe I’ll need to walk away from it again. Maybe– this is probably the case– I just need more sleep. But what I know for sure is that I’m not going to give up on it. It’s pretty clear that it’s going to have a dramatic increase in the quality of my life as I figure it out. It’s just like learning to walk, or learning to play guitar. Hey, if I could learn to play guitar, I can learn to manage my time. It’s all just neurons in the brain. It’s all just chemicals in the brain. Me just doing these vomits- even if some of them are just filler- is part of that process. And I welcome and accept that process. We will get there, wherever there is– we’ll figure out “there” as we go. And we’ll get better with each attempt.

Also, I should totally have lunch with my wife more often. It’s pretty awesome. I feel like I don’t sufficiently make time for these things. I wonder if that base rate will ever change.

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