I often start projects through fiddling around with bits and pieces of ideas and approaches I’ve previously developed. However some of these activities don’t always lead to anything substantial, just other bits and pieces. This can be fun and enlightening but I often think I’d feel better about the time and effort I put in if I ended up further down the road to ‘completion’. I expect this situation is fairly common.
On this subject, over the weekend I came across a related observation from the Macdrifter blog:
My second least favorite part of me is that I meander more than I’d like. I’m a big proponent of fiddling. All of my favorite things came out of fiddling. But I’d like to fiddle more constructively and actually finish things more often than not. I’m too easily excited and frustrated.
My plan to overcome this cultivated defect:
- Make a plan before spending more than 10 minutes on an idea
- Write down the goal before making a plan
- Work on the plan every day for a week (if it takes that long)
- Avoid scope creep and stick to the plan
- Choose the projects wisely and review them often
I quite like the points made as this has the possibility of countering what often happens in practice. You get an idea and then investigate it a bit – the possibilities seem endless and exciting! However, as he says, if you’ve spent over 10 minutes on this, it’s really time to stop and think out a simple plan and goal (especially goal).
I think just doing this one thing would be worth it’s weight in gold, even to the extent of briefly recording alternative plan options for hindsight purposes.
The next part is discipline; actually constraining yourself to focus and deliver and not get distracted. A week is actually quite a long time, enough time to know if there’s something useful there or not.
Finally, reviewing projects often and honestly (and hopefully wisely). This is probably the area I need to improve on most.
In my opinion ‘smart reviewing’ is quite a skill. The ability to openly and honestly assess progress (and to re-evaluate how realistic goals are) – both necessarily rather fuzzy characteristics in the bigger picture – is not that common.
Related to this, see also this post on obliquity (why our goals are best achieved indirectly).