Earlier this week I talked about the importance of getting out of the weeds: taking a 50,000 foot view of your work, extracting yourself from small fires, and tackling the biggest frogs first. Today, the complimentary approach (if even seemingly contradictory).
Getting out of the weeds is important for making major progress, but every now and then you've got to get your hands dirty with some good ol' fashioned weed-whacking too. Think of it like feng shui for your brain — tidying up all the nitty-gritty things that are accumulating, snowballing and clouding up your to-do list — and your creativity. These small tasks are like bugs on your windshield during a long drive — just one or two are a nuisance; many more and you can barely see the road.
How do I know?
Because I am in DIRE need of some weed-whacking this week! My non-urgent, non-important to-do list has grown out of control, and now it's starting to really bug me (no pun intended, but it stays!). Things like a typo in my auto-repsonder series, updating the final step of one of my courses, and letting my Make Sh*t Happen interest list know that the course is now available on-demand. The following tips are from my own weed-whacking game plan:
6 Ways to Get IN to the Weeds
- Make a mega list of every single thing you could possibly tackle. Group similar tasks (I use Workflowy for this), such as writing, editing, technical fixes, travel planning, personal tasks, etc.
- Prioritize, Delegate and Delete. First, order the entire list based on how you want to tackle it. Then, determine if there's anything you can delegate (and write down all the steps necessary to make that happen). Finally, is there anything so small or insignificant that you can remove it altogether or put into a "revisit later" bucket?
- Schedule your session, set a time limit, and do whatever it takes to "get in the zone." This is going to take some serious will-power to ramp up for. What helps you feel motivated? Consider time of day, your favorite music, and your most productive location. It might even be fun to set something up with a friend and both report back after a certain amount of time in the trenches.
- Do not answer email during this time! Unless weed-whacking within your inbox is your sole aim — in which case all of these same steps apply — do not mix the two! Otherwise you will be headed for distracted weed-whacking drudgery from all the context-switching; doing a deep clean on just one of the two can be torture enough!
- Make a note of recurring "weeds." What has room to be systematized or automated in the future? One of my favorite agile development quotes is, "Every time you repeat a task, take one step toward automating it." Wouldn't it be a dream if your "weeds" task list was half as long next time you went to tackle it?
- Reward yourself! Think of something fun you can do to celebrate — this will help you feel much more excited to follow-through with future weed-whacking sessions.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments:
When do you know it's finally time to tackle the small stuff? Any strategies that work particularly well for you?