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Taking My Own Advice?

Several of my past articles have been reproduced with my permission on the new Pitstop for Business website. They are:

Urgency: The Natural Way to Prioritize

Expand Your Ideas the Easy Way

Whole Hearted Living

Dealing With Projects That Don’t Have a Deadline

Looking at these articles again, outside the context of my own website, caused me to wonder how much of my own advice I was currently following. Of course with the hundreds of articles on my site it would be physically impossible for one person to put into effect every suggestion or piece of advice. But these particular articles are ones that have been selected by someone else as being particularly relevant. So how do I measure up myself?

Urgency? Yes, that’s fine. I am building urgency into my Final Version time management system as part of the way that it prioritizes. It’s not “pure” urgency as such because other factors are taken into account, but it’s probably more urgency-friendly than any other system I have come across.

Expanding my ideas by repeated drafting is something that I don’t use as often as I ought to. It is a method that works, and works very well - especially with article-length passages. I do still however have a tendency to write the article in one draft and use later revisions only for tidying it up. In fact that’s the way that I’m writing this article. I’m conscious though that quite a lot is missed out by doing it that way. Working gradually up from one or two short phrases gives a more rounded end product. Memo to self: start using this again.

Whole-hearted living? Of course being retired is the ideal time for whole-hearted living. Free of the constraints of bosses and clients, I’ve now got the time to do the things I really want to do. So am I doing them? I’ve written before that my idea of retirement was that I would spend my time walking, reading books and maybe take up something like learning a musical instrument. Is life like that? No! Memo to self: ask myself how much of what I’m doing at the moment I am doing whole heartedly.

Projects that don’t have a deadline? This is advice that I’ve been neglecting, especially the bit about doing them one at a time. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that running several of these projects at once is faster. The number of languishing unfinished projects I have is ample evidence that it’s not! Memo to self: follow the four-stage process in the article.

Reader Comments (7)

I always especially liked "Dealing With Projects That Don’t Have a Deadline." I made one of these lists, but it is inside my computer where I never think of looking at it. Must rethink that.

When I first found your site and tried practicing "little & often," I had trouble reconciling it with doing one project at a time. The lesson seems to be to do one *non-deadline* project at a time, in little & often style, alongside whatever else you are required to be doing.

Mark, when you dismissed items from AF/SF, did you add these non-deadline projects to a running list? (the ones you didn't want to delete altogether)

Does your Final Version collect them together in any special way?
February 19, 2012 at 16:16 | Registered CommenterBernie
This is a good selection. I'm intrigued to try Expanding Ideas to see if I can develop a coherent plan of action that way.

For ordering projects, I had been puzzling this concept myself independent of the article. As to Mark's suggested points:

Stage One: Draw Up a List - will do
Stage Two: Edit the List - will do
Stage Three: Order the List - I won't make a complete order; just be sure to put things above others if they really need to be. "Don’t get too hung-up on getting exactly the right order – you’re going to do the lot anyway!"
Stage Four: Action the Items One by One - Yes, but not necessarily in the order above. After I do project 1, I may adjust the order and pick project 3.

I won't get into estimation. I might get into some deadlining - when it should be achieved.

But I think the main thing is to do this incrementally, like Bernie says: Dismiss from AF, and add to a running list. Put in proper order. Select an item from the list when the time is right.
February 19, 2012 at 19:38 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu

This article is *much* older than AF/SF. And like I said I have been neglecting it.
February 20, 2012 at 1:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I don't like strict "one till done", although if I were a machine I might. For most projects, we tire after to much of the same thing. Sometimes it's physical, sometimes it's mental, but the result is the same -- several smaller sessions over many days is better than one long session. Too much in one session can often be detrimental both physically and mentally.

Many projects benefit from rest time between sessions. Muscles need time to clean out toxins and repair. Nerves need time to grow along the paths you've laid down. Your subconscious needs tome to make connections which make the project even better.

That's not to say we should jump randomly between all thirty projects that strike our fancy. It's better to choose a few -- a balance of physical and mental, for others and for yourself, short-term and long -- and work on each one every day or so. I have an A-list, which I try to get through every day or two, and a B-list, which is available if nothing on the A-list stands out.
February 22, 2012 at 17:53 | Registered CommenterCricket

I wasn't advocating "one till done." The article recommends tackling one at a time only those projects which have no deadline. Because they have no deadline these projects tend not to be done at all.

There's plenty else to be getting on with at the same time, such as projects which do have deadlines and projects which need continuous work on them over a long period. Not to mention all the routine stuff like checking email, backing-up, etc. etc.
February 22, 2012 at 23:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Even with deadline-free projects, only discussing the time after deadline projects are done (or as done as they can for the current mental state), I need more than one. One of the joys of deadline-free projects is that we don't have to do them quickly. After three nights of filing, or clearing a backlog, or deep-cleaning, in a row, I need to do something else. I find three is about right. I can make reasonably fast progress without getting sick of them.

Mind you, I notice that when a deadline-free project is close to being finished, I'm less drawn to it. I work hard at it when I'm approaching the end, but that final bit of tying it up tends to sit. I suspect I'm over-correcting to times I worked too hard on projects just to finish them and later regretted it. Some of them were put away improperly, others I didn't enjoy as much as I could have, other times I should have gone to bed on time and finished in the morning rather than stay up late just to finish and be tired all next day.
February 25, 2012 at 0:15 | Registered CommenterCricket

<< After three nights of filing, or clearing a backlog, or deep-cleaning, in a row, I need to do something else. >>

Deep-cleaning maybe, but I wouldn't regard filing or clearing a backlog as deadline-free. Filing should be done regularly, and clearing a backlog is an emergency.
February 25, 2012 at 0:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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