Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shipping: One Thing at a Time

The key to productivity is to not do too much. If you've read more than a few posts on this blog, you may already know about my approach to Mondays, I hate them, and that same aspect of human psychology is at work on a daily, and even minute-by-minute basis. Human beings want to feel productive. We are chemically wired to love getting something done (“let me beat one more level” or “just one more chapter, then I’ll go to sleep”). So the challenge is to channel that human instinct to “feel productive” by not just letting ourselves be busy but to be focused on getting something done. Seth Godin calls this concept “shipping.” I’m just calling it “one thing at a time.”

When I work, I try to do one thing at a time. I have a notepad next to my workspace where I write down what “done” will look like on my current project.
For what I’m working on right now, I would write on my To Do list: “Write Shipping Blogpost.” Notice I broke it up into tasks. I'm just working on WRITING the blogpost now. Later, my list will include “Edit Shipping Blogpost” and “Post Shipping Blogpost.”

Human nature loves crossing things off of lists, so I get the extra endorphin release of crossing each task off as I complete it, and I’ll get three endorphin boosts for the price of one project.

What I have had to learn to do is not get distracted from the task at hand. Emails, co-workers, and telephone calls are all simple distractions that defeat productivity. But the worst is my own mind’s efforts to be productive. I’ve written before on the myth of multi-tasking [link], but the worst part of that myth is that our brains WANT to believe it! We FEEL productive when we’re doing lots of things at once. So don’t fight it, learn to channel it.

On my same notepad, when a new idea comes to mind or I think of something, I quickly write it down in a sentence or two that will jog my memory later, then I get back to the task I’m working on. Usually that requires me to re-enter the current task, often by putting an arrow next to the project I’m working on and need to get back to. So some projects will end up with many arrows next to them, meaning I’ve been derailed a few times during the task.
I just remind myself that it is better to finish a few important tasks than to start and stop many tasks that make me FEEL productive.

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