I’m in the process of organizing my life. Prioritizing, Cleaning (lots of that), budgeting and simply tracking the wealth of my ideas and intellectual and creative projects.
Take for instance this blog — which despite my dearth of recent posts — I think often about. An hour ago, I took inventory of all my drafts of blog posts. I have dozens of started drafts — some which never will be finished, but a few will certainly be finished and published. Glancing over these drafts, I seem to have found indisputable evidence of my genius … or laziness…Take your pick.
Perhaps in a later post I will elaborate on goal setting and task tracking. Over the last week I spent a lot of time on filing and task management system (and am nowhere near finished). I am generally not a fan of applying the project management methodology or the “Getting Things Done” philosophy to everything in my life. In the professional world, project management makes perfect sense. You are being paid to accomplish certain tasks, so getting offtask or distracted by things is a clear hazard.
But for creative types who devote a lot of personal time to projects, performance efficiency is not the most important goal or the primary metric. It’s easy to map out a plan, and then the steps within this plan. But that assumes that the plan is actually workable and actually important. I often recalibrate my priorities — and sometimes have had to write off hours (or days or even weeks) of time because I eventually concluded that the project wasn’t important enough, I couldn’t execute it well enough or just didn’t have the necessary enthusiasm for it. Sometimes I just had more important things to work on,and never came back to it. My thinking was that if this changed — and the endeavor turned out to be important, it would gnaw at my insights until it eventually clawed a spot onto my ToDo list. “Never make a decision today that you can reasonably put off tomorrow, goes the slogan. ” (my thinking is that when I return, I will be in a better decision to decide whether the project was still significant enough to complete.
I’m just throwing out numbers, but I probably have about 50+ half written blog posts, about 10 serious book-length projects, 4 or 5 multimedia projects worth working on, 3 or 4 technical projects plus 2-3 learning projects (i.e., becoming proficient in a tool), 50 things I’d like to read sooner rather than later, (and don’t get me started about movies). I have 2 or so business projects (some of which demand technical expertise I haven’t acquired or real life business experience which I haven’t gained). Then I have lots of routine geek system administration tasks, outside interests (currently climate change), skill-building for job search and …by the way,, looking for a job! Also family, organizations, traveling, exercise, etc….
What I need help on is with recalibrating — and comparing apples and oranges. Sometimes, if you come right down to it, apples are better than oranges. I need better ways to visualize the scope of my ideas and projects. I am used to dealing with information overload and sometimes sudden course changes. But I need a way to make sure that I am not forgetting anything — so I can have the luxury of deciding whether an idea of mine is ultimately unforgettable.
One final point. Flitting from one project to another has costs …especially in the world of creative writing. Sometimes I develop enthusiasm for a writing project, start writing, put it off, and then years later when I actually have time to complete it, I realize that my earlier work was just useless. Actually this is not so much a factor with creative projects as it is with technical projects or critical essays. I frequently start big essays and after significant delays, I find that my original work is inscrutable or useless. My solution to it is use a note-taking, mind-mapping solution like TheBrain which let’s me feel as though can I describe complex ideas and relationships in a preliminary state so that if I return to it years later, I can actually decipher those thoughts. With harder technical projects, the solution is simply not to flit — or to avoid doing it as much as possible. I have started deploying a drupal site several times (and in Jan 2011 I was really close to deploying). At the moment now I am focused on this project almost solely to the exclusion of everything else. Then, once I reached a finishing or stopping point, I can make it a back burner item. For creative projects, the brain has a tendency to reintroduce old inspirations, but for more technical things or analytical things, you either need to either capture what you are learning or commit to realizing it to the very end.
Related: the ipad app ABC Notes