Debugging the Doldrums

After the excitement of Monday, Tuesday through Thursday became a blur of meetings, socializing, sysadmin chores, and a lot of marathon television watching. This is unacceptable and perhaps inevitable, as I haven’t been true in establishing a daily routine. I’ve written about this in the past on on the individual level. On the agency level, it’s far more embarrassing to admit to. So let’s do a quick diagnosis and recovery.

Hypothesis: Continuity Comes First, Productivity Follows

The most important element, I think, is establishing a day-to-day continuity of action. Usually, this is provided by a project manager or producer who has the responsibility of reporting progress to either the client or another executive within the company. One thing I have not been doing this week is using my planning notebook. This is probably because I’ve been splitting my time between three or four workplaces, and have had to juggle two different bags that don’t carry everything I need. It is highly irritating.

I’m currently using a 9×12 sketchbook, a beautiful Cachet Classic Graph that is pretty much my favorite notebook ever. However, it’s too big; I’m going to have to go to something half-sized because it will fit in my main camera/laptop bag. This is probably a good reason to create a smaller version of the Emergent Task Planner.

Anyway, the daily continuity habit doesn’t need to be involved. It just requires one place to keep notes and decide what to do. I’m thinking of something Scrum-like:

  • There’s my giant to-do list, which is essentially the Product Backlog. Then there’s what I want to do during the week, which is the Sprint Backlog.
  • One place to keep track of the project process, daily. This is like the Scrum burndown and daily scrum meeting.

It makes sense to start tracking these things in this blog, so long as they are short. I will start implementing that next week.

Creating Regularity

In the context of the Company of One, I have to be unusually disciplined. The specific methods that I think apply to me are:

  • Turning off my brain; unchecked curiosity is the death of productivity. There’s plenty of time for rampant curiosity later. Focus, for me, is staying in the the same room as the problem and not letting my attention flitter away from the challenge.
  • Acknowledging the need for social time and scheduling in plenty of it. However, maintain some core private hours to do actual production work.
  • It’s hard to make things and the creative process is easy to disrupt with meetings of any kind. So schedule few of them on just one or two days a week. Keep in mind the Maker versus Manager mindset that Paul Graham so eloquently describes.
  • Go to sleep early during the week, wake up early to optimize synchronization with others. While I can generally be productive on a random schedule, this only works if I’m being a complete hermit. Opportunities to socialize tend to appear without sudden, but during specific times of the day (late afternoon and early evening). The early morning is the best time to do the long ramp-up and get creative stuff done by myself. Afternoons can then be reserved for informal interactions (no meetings, though).