Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Getting on top of the heap.

I am somehow still struggling to get the heap on my desk a little smaller. Meanwhile, some new ideas and half-finished projects are queing up in my life. Has anybody got a second pair of hands and a second brain to spare? Or tips on more efficiency? Because I think I am in the trap that I despise most: brain-lag time.

Brain-lag time are those days (or weeks, even) where nothing seems to get finished and I have the feeling that I am only dragging my feet, no matter what. All things take (seemingly) all eternity to do or I imagine that they will be no use after all, so they sit and sit around before getting tackled, and there's a bunch of additional stuff that needs to be done that is stacking up and up and up. And letting all that stacking happen is dangerous, because it might lead to that feeling of being totally overwhelmed and not able to cope with all the situation. I know that just saying "aaargh!" and burying one's head in the sand is no help at all, but sometimes it is tempting. I have learned by now that these brain-lag times are perfectly normal and just occur from time to time, but they still make me very, very nervous - especially since they have an awful sense of timing and occur whenever they are worst. (Or maybe they are always worst because of their nature? Just like there's no good time to fall ill?)

So... if you know this symptom and have any techniques that you use successfully to cope with brain-lag time, I'd be very happy to learn about them!

1 comment:

lyorn said...

It's always the worst time for brain lag. There are no good times.

Are you maybe suffering from too many interrupts? Or would rather start a new project than continue with the existing ones? Some thing *do* take an eternity to do, but to go all motivational poster here, eternity passes one minute at a time.

A way to deal (that works for me), is the timed slog.

First, set yourself a realistic number of hours for work today. Not what you *should* do, but what makes you think, "I can do this". Start at a time that allows you to be finished in time for dinner. Put a "do not disturb" sign on the door, switch off phone(s) and internet, put on music (or an audio book), put a piece of notepaper on a free part of the desk, set an alarm clock to 90 minutes (or whatever is a good time slice for you). Take the *top* item from the heap. (Bad idea to work on a backlog from the bottom.) Work on it for 90 minutes straight. If you feel like continuing after that time, do so. If not, pick up the notepaper and write down what is blocking the project. Sometimes you are just missing something. Sometimes you find that you have spent all the time thinking "this *should* be done differently", or, as you write, "this is no use". Maybe estimate your progress. Then re-set the clock, pick up the second item off the top of the heap, continue. When your alloted work time is done, stop (unless you are on a roll). If you want to continue with something *not* on top of the heap, do it. It's dessert.

Think about the blocking issues after dinner, but before you are tired. (Tired = panicky, panicky = bad.) With some luck you will have an idea about how to solve the issues the next morning. If not, at least you got something done, even if you hated it. That's what the time limit is for. Continue.

If your heap grows too fast to be grinded down with this strategy, you have to curb heap development. That's a completely different problem.

If your heap refuses to be worked down from the top, there might be dependencies in there, or tasks may be spread over several heap-items. Make a list of items on the heap, group as needed, determine dependencies, chose one at the bottom of a chain, and use that as your starting point. Strike items from the list in a happy colour as you go along.

Good luck!