January 04, 2017
I treat my entire life as 2 week experiments and 6 month projects because, and maybe this is just the way I cope with life and decision making, but I feel that if you make a 5 or 10 year plan that you can reliably hit, almost by definition, you have to set a plan that is below your current capabilities. Like, if you are an A student you must set a C+ plan for it to be 100% achievable. That I think is just a great way to paint yourself into a very unattractive corner. – Tim Ferriss in his Podcast #175: How to cage the monkey mind (45:08)
I tried this approach during the second half of 2016. It took me 3 months to iron out the kinks and come up with a system which worked for me. I eventually paired it with Trello and journaling. My productivity on side-projects increased exponentially. Prioritizing became simpler, easier. I was happier, more focused. And I spent the same amount of time as I usually would.
Why did this system work so well for me? Not for the reason that Tim is talking about.
To see why it helped me, I had to first identify the my pitfalls.
I like shiny new projects more than those I am currently working on.
I am unable to limit myself to just one project at a time. I start new projects whenever I have a good idea. The good ideas seem to occur more when when I am in “the Dip” (Seth Godin terminology) or entering the “Trough of Sorrow” (Paul Graham terminology) of a certain project. Seth Godin’s Dip Curve
I end up working on too many projects at the same time
When I’m working on multiple projects I have an illusion of productivity and it feels good.
I have trouble finishing projects
I am unable to let go the projects that I cannot do – because of time or interest. That would mean accepting that I’m not productive. Who likes that?
So I am on a spiral of ever-increasing projects and ever-decreasing productivity.
My system helped me trick myself around the problems.
Initially, the “2 week experiment” approach by itself didn’t work well. It started to focus me once I started journaling about the idea in mind: making notes, exploring that idea and exploring why I was drawn to that idea. Once I added Trello to this mix, it really made me productive.
At the start of the 2-week idea period, I create a card in Trello. This card has the project name, the 2 week time period and my pre-determined success criteria. In its description, it also has a living list of subtasks: the idea broken down into many smaller atomic tasks. This list is a starting point. I update this list as and when these atomic tasks change, new ones are needed or they become obsolete.
I also mark the completed tasks and rearrange the order of tasks so that they are always in sequence — this way, I always know what’s next. Trello “2-week card” for a new project – “Redesign website”
So what about the 6-month project? I have one ongoing project — the recording of Moral Letters vol 2 for Librivox. I I can evaluate the 6-month project schedule when I finish it.
Written by Suprada Urval who loves to climb, read and build things. Follow me on twitter?