Monthly Archives: October 2011

Back to the routine

I did an experiment in September: I started a new blog and wrote a blog post every weekday. I used 30 minutes on writing each morning and published the post right then without much editing.

It was a success: I wrote every day and many of my writings I am proud of.

So I continued the experiment in October but decided to (a) improve the quality and (b) spend less time on it. So instead of putting half an hour on it every morning I would use 45 minutes three mornings a week. I would structure that 45 minutes so that the first 30 minutes was for writing a first draft and the rest for editing the piece. I also dedided to use some of the mornings to editing my September posts and re-publishing them on this blog or Leonidas blog.

It didn’t work.

Routines need to be easy to follow. Doing something every day is easy. Doing something every other day is harder. Going from 30 minutes to 45 minutes was psychologically hard. It felt like I didn’t need to do anything at first because I had 15 more minutes.

I was also vague to myself about what I actually wanted. Was this an experiment, a learning tool, or did I want to produce my best work? When goals are vague, one feels a pressure to reach all possible goals, but doesn’t feel the drive to reach any of them.

In short, I made my morning routine more difficult than I was ready to handle. I want to wake up, need what I need to do, and get out of the door. Trying to write a perfect blog post is not something to start a morning with.

So in November I am back to my original schedule: one post every weekday, written in 30 minutes. I make one change however: instead of posting on Antti Learns to Write, I will post here. The dichotomy in my head between quick posts and quality posts is unhealthy. Life is learning and this is me. My goal is to write every day, write as well as I can, and publish after 30 minutes. Real artists ship.

Lots of speculation, little getting done

People over-analyze. Decisions that should take seconds take minutes, decisions that should take minutes take months, and nothing gets done. Here are the signs of the illness and the ways to heal it.

“We should ask our boss first”

If you have an idea for something new, something out of your ordinary work, you should ask your boss if you can do it, right?

Wrong! Let me tell you a secret: bosses actually prefer people to just do stuff. Consider just making the call and implementing your idea. Tell the boss later what you did.┬áThe big difference is that you are willing to carry the risk of you own idea. If you are wrong, it is your fault, not your boss’s.

Of course if you are very wrong, you will get fired. That’s the risk.

“Let’s invite everyone”

When making a decision that involves everyone, you want buy-in from everyone. It is tempting to invite everyone together to talk it through.

There are three problems with this approach.

  1. The opportunity cost is huge.
  2. The decision gets postponed until everyone is present.
  3. It is tedious to make a decision in a big group. People get frustrated and bad decisions get made.

On the other hand, you don’t want to make such decisions in secret. A good compromise is to give an opportunity for everyone to attend, but not make it mandatory. The people who are interested will come, and the rest will be happy for others to make the decision.

“From now on, everyone should do this. All the time.”

Large decisions take more time. With a large group, getting a buy-in is hard. With a long time span, you need mechanisms to maintain the new way. And on top of that, wrong decisions cost a lot.

Don’t make a large decision unless there’s a need. First try it out in a small group, for a short time. If it works, making a larger decision later will be easier.

“We should do something about this.”

Get out of the should-would-and-could world. Nobody likes the big backlog of things to fix.

Ban the word ‘should’. A conversation must never end with a notion that something should be done. Either do it, or don’t. If you notice your workmate using the word, tell him to make a decision. Expect others to do the same for you.

It is okay to have a backlog, but not okay to make it a monument of procrastination. Don’t be afraid to leave stuff out of your backlog. If something is important, it will come up later.