Saturday, January 18, 2014

BACKLOG: When You Have More Projects Than Time

     I started directing this post to other writers, but then it occurred to me this really applies to anyone with the ambition and drive to take on multiple projects with an unwavering goal of finishing them all. This doesn't apply to dilettantes who are content to start a project, then abandon it when they lose interest to pick up another hobby. Those people are really only interested in proofs of concept: can it be done? Once they prove it can be they lose interest in finishing it. No, this is directed at those of us who have an almost single-minded obsession with not only starting new projects before others are done, but finishing each and every single one of them.

     I always have more self-inflicted chores on my plate than I can count on two hands. And this doesn't even account for what I call "real-life" chores that need to be done, such as doing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, dusting the mantle, etc. I was raised with the all-American work ethic: finish your chores before you play. Translate that to: "finish your real-life chores before you do the projects you want to do." It's hard sometimes, because the real-life chores aren't often much fun. The consolation is they usually don't take long to do as long as you stay on top of them. And in the end I always enjoy doing my chosen projects more without the real-life chores hanging over my head, needing to be done.

     So, those out of the way, not how to maximize your productivity on the projects you want to get done. It's no use fighting creative block. If there is a project you've been putting off because you're blocked and don't know what to do on it next, then don't waste your time hammering your head over it. Leave it alone for now. Sooner or later inspiration will strike again. But trying to force it will only result in three things: frustration for you, delay of other projects, and poor quality on the one you're forcing. So leave those tougher ones alone for now.

     The next group of projects to set aside are those that are held up by something else. Perhaps you don't have all of the materials you need to complete them, or another project needs to be completed before this one can continue, or you are waiting on someone else to do their part before you can continue with your contribution.  It's no use lowing over these, worrying and fretting. They can wait.

     Of the ones remaining, there are several ways of prioritizing these. Perhaps you can work on them in order of effort, completing the more easily, quickest completed and moving gradually on to the more complex, effort intensive ones. Or the other way around, getting the harder ones out of the way in order to relax and work at your leisure on the easier ones. Me, I always go by my current mood - which one do I feel like working on at the moment. Barring deadlines, ore other forced-sequencing, this is usually the more satisfying for me.

     The fact is, for people like you and I, we will never run out of projects to do. New ones will occure to us long before the current ones are done. We are more likely to leave several project incomplete when we pass on than to suddenly run out of things to do.