Project Management: How To Goof Off and Still Get Your Stuff Done

One of the tenets of GTD is that projects are not done. Only the tasks associated with them can be done.

To my way of thinking, the trick is to keep all the things you have to do from getting in the way of your projects.

Be Dutiful

To that end, I suggest systemizing and scheduling every recurring task you have. Even make the system a little redundant if you have to. My bathroom doesn’t need to be cleaned every week, but doing so ensures that it only takes 20 minutes to clean everything, including the soap scum inside the tub.

It might seem like a pipe dream (and yes, it will take time and effort to implement) but you’ll see, on any given day, a list of the recurring tasks that need to get done. The same way you check your calendar for meetings and doctors appointments, you’ll check “to-do” list, see that you have 6 hours worth of duties on Wednesday and book club. You might not have to do all those recurring tasks on Wednesday– the don’t all have hard deadlines– but they do have to get done eventually. No falling through the cracks.

Of course, you do have to work to make it easy on yourself. Don`t reinvent the wheel– — make checklists. Take the time to figure out the most efficient way to do things. These things have to be done (they do, right? You’re not rearranging deck chairs are you?) but it’s up to you to make sure they don’t take all day.

And the more time they take, the less time you have for novel tasks. Manage your duties. Don’t let your duties manage YOU.

Plan, But Don’t Get Attached To The Plan

Planning is underrated for the one thing I find most valuable about it: It helps you flesh things out. So sit down and figure out what you need to do first, second, last, what you need to research, how much time things will take. Often, there’ll be smaller sub-projects that need to be done first, which make good ‘proof of concepts’, to see whether you actually want to do the project or if it was just a cool idea. Sometimes you flush something even more interesting out of the bushes, so don’t be afraid to follow that trail. It’s called a plan, not a straight-jacket.

The Immersive Experience

Projects are involving, satisfying — — you might even say fun. So? What’s the problem here? If your duties are taken care of, scheduled nice and proper and you’re disciplined enough to take care of them before you retreat to your lab to play with radioactive isotopes, dive right in.

Immersive, focussed attention gets things moving in a helluva hurry. And if your enthusiasm wanes, scale back to where you like it. I’m digging a drainage ditch behind my house to the tune of an hour a day. Do what you like– there’s no one to tell you otherwise, as long as your chores get done.

Prioritize Satisfaction Over Fun

Do I enjoy digging ditches? Of course not. But I’m going to appreciate the fact that it dries out the yard as well as waters the perrennial beds I’m planning. In addition, the pain of digging in clay is nothing to the irritation I’ll get from looking across the yard and seeing an unfinished ditch.

On the other hand, if you’re done, you’re done. Prioritize satisfaction over and arbitrary standard of completion.

When in doubt, calibrate to the vision.

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Projects aren’t for life. In some cases, they just end. In others, they become habits, recurring tasks that go into your duties list and get optimized and checklisted.

But how to you get to that point? Projects are not all about doing. You need to feel them, find the choke points, the inefficiencies, the places where things are not quite good enough. You need to reflect on them. And you need to document them. In a sense, you are testing hypotheses, and you need to record your variables and findings.

It might seem artificial, even restrictive, but it needn’t be. That’s where the Weekly Review comes in. That’s where you reflect on and analyse your projects, decide whether they continue to match the vision, and make plans for carrying on.

The Weekly Review is crucial tool, and we’ll talk about it next.


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