MicroTask 09: Trying to make progress in the face of distractions

Micro Task 9 Yesterday I deployed the “project” version of my Microtask sheet, but it was one of those days filled with interruptions: running tax-related errands, yet another USPS package mis-delivery, and dealing with various non-profit related requests. On the bright side I had a great Skype chat with another productivity/flow enthusiast, which reminded me that YES, THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO GET IT.

Where was I going with this? Oh, I didn’t get anything done yesterday micro-task wise. Or maybe I did; it depends on how I look at it.

The Project-based Microtask Form

I didn’t talk about the design of the project-based microtask form yesterday, so let me describe my thoughts behind it. It’s designed around the premise that when I’m getting back into a project, the only thing that I immediately remember is its name. The detailed context takes a while to recall, so the prompting exercise at the bottom of the screen was chosen to help me with the following:

  • Duh…what was it supposed to do again?
  • Der…what was it that was bugging me that I needed to do?
  • Um…where was all the stuff that is related to this project located again?
  • Oh right
  • Duh
  • Where was the place I actually left off?

Here’s what the form looked like for those who missed it yesterday:

Micro Project Sheet

So once project context is re-established through some free writing in the box, I’m ready to formulate what I call The Question for the Day. This is the question I seek to answer about the project. It might be something like, “How do I do X” or “Why does Y exist”. For each question, the answer provided is what contributes to tangible progress. The back of the form is the question log, where I write down questions and the answers that I’ve come up with. It ends up looking like a kind of dialog with myself following a chain of reasoning that produces results. Answering questions is inherently satisfying. Once enough questions have been answered, it’s possible to make decisions or produce tangible work. It seems to be a byproduct of having acquired enough answers, at least when I’m working on something.

Yesterday’s question was How do I make a node of a behavior tree print ‘Hello’?, which I was able to write only after knocking around some thoughts in the free writing box below. Just forming the QUESTION was a major task, and if I’d not been so distracted that day I might have had the energy to do it before my evening meeting and work session for the non profit kicked off. BUT NO…

So today, I am going to use yesterday’s question to get today’s answers. There’s a lot I don’t know about behavior trees, not having formally used them before though apparently my old approach shares some conceptual DNA.

As a note to myself, waking up early seems critical in starting these kinds of projects, especially if I have multiple things going on. Nominally this week is a theme week, where my main focus is on Project 1401 AI, but with the number of social distractions—for example, I have to present some topics at tonight’s board meeting—it’s difficult to get deep into coding. It is very irritating, and it is very difficult to not-think about it, which causes frustration and resentment to grow within me. I’m not sure what to do about it.

About this Article Series

This is part of a month-long challenge to see if I can make something small every day to learn patience. The April 2015 Challenge Page lists everything in one place...check it out!