I’m all for choosing a time to do a certain job: I live by deadlines anyway but it’s sensible and productive to pick a time that you will begin. Take a moment to judge how long something will take and assess when you’ll have all you need to complete it, then set that as a start date.
That means you can ignore it until that date and I am really all for getting stuff out of your head until you need to do it.
It’s that word ‘assess’.
I offer that the best way to assess a job is to start it. I’ve had times when I’ve had a last email with details of a job and as I’ve already known and confirmed the dates, I’ve only skimmed that message. Invariably, that’s been a mistake. Sometimes reading it over isn’t enough either.
Once or twice now I’ve done all the practical things yet as I came to start the work, realised I needed something more. Something that wasn’t apparent until I’d begun.
So I suggest you begin a job even if you’re going to then slot it into a date or a time later on. This lets you really understand what you need. It’s like checking you’ve got all the parts when you’re assembling furniture. You don’t do that and so far it’s worked out okay but you know some day it’s going to bite you.
Start the work, assemble some of the bits.
And then email the person who’s commissioned you. Having made that tiny start, you’ll be able to find some detail you need to check. Or at least that it sounds reasonable and believable that you want to check it. So you email them about that and they get the message: you’re on the case already. That goes down very well.
And then they email you back with the answer and thanking them, taking that detail and adding it to the work plan, it means one of two things.
First, you’ve started now and sometimes the ending is so clearly in sight that you might as well just go ahead and finish. When you can do a task, do a task.
But second and more commonly, when you come to do the task later, you feel like you’re already well underway – because you are.
The always excellent site Asian Efficiency – I've followed their OmniFocus advice before – has some pointers about getting started off well:
Picture this: you show up at the office and think, “now what?” Unless you have a meeting, are working towards a deadline, or have something on your mind that morning, your first inclination may be to peek into your email inbox and see what wonders (work!) they day might hold. This is perfectly normal.
Starting your morning with email however, is not how we start our workdays the right way.
Neuro-research shows that, for most people, the morning is the best time for creative thinking, learning, and comprehension.
If you want to make the most out of each morning’s peak brain power, you need to create and set a routine that will allow you to get your most important work done first.
5 Powerful Ways for Starting Your Workday Right – Asian Efficiency
I'm disappointed that they don't link to the research they mention but the full five things to do are all good. They include tackling your most difficult tasks first and planning breaks. For more detail and the three other thing so do read the full article.
Seven weeks ago I decided I wanted to try creating an email newsletter for The Blank Screen. Six weeks ago, the first one went out to about ten people. Today the sixth went out to forty.
I’m not saying anything about the quality of the work – though that people are adding themselves to the newsletter is enormously gratifying – but I am saying that it was an idea that became a thing.
It’s now a normal thing. I knew this morning that my day would begin with writing a Self Distract blog as ever, then that I would do the newsletter. Then I’d be off writing an article for someone else and a script for someone else, but the newsletter is a regular, locked-in part of my week now.
There was a moment when I was first bringing The Blank Screen book to the web as this news site that I thought about an email newsletter. But I thought it would be a lot to take on atop everything else. Now it’s just here and it’s normal, it’s what I do.
It’s fun and it’s hard and to make it worthwhile anyone reading it takes planning and writing effort but I know I will do it every week. I suppose it takes discipline but it doesn’t seem that way now I’ve started and it’s running. It feels more like momentum.
I think creating new things is often like an engine: it takes a huge amount of energy to start – it literally takes an explosion – but then once it’s running, it keeps on going very easily.
I thought about this today just because I mentioned to someone that this morning’s newsletter was the sixth and I stopped mid-syllable. It can’t be six weeks, can it? Six editions? Already?
The thing I’m taking away from this is that you can do new things and you can enjoy them, you just have to start.