Monday, January 01, 2007

Starting Off Right

Artist with blank canvasWith the new year and my new chapter of life, I've been paying closer attention to tips and techniques to improve my personal time management and productivity. Even though I've only been working part time in my business, Cyber Data Solutions, I've come to recognize that one of the key components for success for is just getting things started. As happens to almost all of us on occasion, the blank canvas can be a real stumbling block. Actually, the concept of "starting" has a variety of subconcepts for me, each of which requires different tools to overcome.

First is the idea of just starting a project from scratch. Fortunately for me, this doesn't plague me as much as it used to. After seventeen years of programming, I've built up quite a library of code. I've got templates and programming chunks and function libraries already built. "Starting" a project for me often involves grabbing some of these pieces (which already run fairly well) and starting the process of tweaking them. If I built houses, this would be the equivalent of setting up a pre-fab building and then just customizing it for the new owners.

The second area is restarting a project after a delay. Occasionally, I have to wait for some third party to complete a task before I can continue my work. This is not an unusual occurrence. After all everyone has their own schedule. Sometimes they mesh. Sometimes they don't. The biggest problem I run into here is just getting back into the flow of the project. Little details that I had in my head can fade even after only a few days. To combat this I take notes as often as I can. I keep a paper notebook for projects. I have Google Notebook, I put notations in the code itself. Oh, and I keep every single email about a project that crosses my desk. I can't tell you the number of times that particular habit has saved my bacon.

My last challenge in this area is the simple act of starting out each day. This is the one I've been trying to work on more recently. Far too often, the minutia of life seem to jump to center stage. Emails, blogs, working out, eating, etc. Each thing seems either innocuous or tremendously vital. Don't even ask me about checking blog statistics. I'm still new enough at this that I get pretty excited when I have more than ten readers in a day. All of that stuff, though, clutters the morning and before I know it, it's 1pm and I haven't gotten anything truly important done.

Now lately, in order to short-circuit this behavior, I've taken to getting up and going into the office and immediately starting work on my highest priority project. I promise myself that I only have to work for a single hour without stopping. No checking email. No reading (or writing) blog posts. Nothing but the work. Funny thing is, when I really put my mind to it, it's almost laughably easy. The exciting thing is that I can't believe how much I can get done in just that one hour.

I'll let you know if I find any other tricks which help me get things done. Of course, if you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them, too. I'm also compiling a list of helpful sites and blogs on my Squidoo lens. Feel free to visit or suggest some entries.

So, how has the beginning of the year gone for you?


Anonymous said...

What an exciting day for you! Plus it's a good time to get out of U of M after that horrible Rose Bowl....geez. Hope your day was fun!

Anonymous said...

The year so far has been terrible, because there is still no picture of JoAnn.

And your archive links are broken.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree with anonymous, this "JoAnn" sounds like a big tease. We hate her now. Oh wait, how did I sign this comment?........