Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unfinishing Disease

I have always been an idea person. I have a million ideas jostling for my attention on any given day. I completely ignore the vast majority of them, never even imagining them into any kind of fruition. I know better than to get too invested.

Still, the tiny proportion of this miasma that I pluck out and put some effort into is a lot. Despite cultivating selectivity and striving hard for discipline these past ten years I find that most of the ideas I select and work for come to nothing. The difficulty I have is determining when failure is due to my own lack of follow-through, and when it is because the idea just wasn't ripe for plucking. Hitting walls is inevitable, but at what point is beating my head against a wall just self-abuse rather than admirable determination?

At this moment I have a host of programs in nascent or developmental stages at my Church. I know it is too many, but which ones do I drop? I have 3 different theological writing projects I'd like to be working on. I have an adult Bible Study curriculum I have half-written. I have 2 role-playing games I am collaborating on writing seriously, which I have stalled out on. I want to blog here more. I want to podcast with my fellow friars. I want to get a Lily grant to do something completely awesome and revolutionary for the future of the church.

The point is not to whine about my workload or compare it against anyone else's. What I want to know is how I get out of a position where it feels like everything is in a perpetual state of delayed progress.


Doug Hagler said...

I am not the person to answer that question by any stretch of imagination. I have whole folders in Google Docs devoted to different kinds of unfinished ideas. If you get an answer, I'll be excited to see it.

cygnoir said...

I have taken so many classes and read so many books on managing time, and projects, that perhaps I have too many ideas on how to start tackling your list of projects, but here goes ...

The first step is always to gather all of your thoughts and ideas down on paper (or whatever electronic solution you use), and to continue to do so. That way you aren't stressing yourself out further by relying on your brain to remember all the details as well as the larger project goals you want to accomplish.

Next, remove unnecessary distractions. For some of us, that means going offline when sitting down at the computer to write. For others, it means declaring some time for yourself in which you do nothing but "sprints" of work -- no email-checking, no game-playing, no cleaning your desk instead of doing work on it -- you get the idea. However it is that you achieve that optimal work state, without distractions, figure that out and set aside time for it.

I am a big list-maker, but I realize that isn't for everyone. Some people prefer mind-maps, visually grasping what they need to do next on a certain project instead of endless lists of to-do items. However you like to plan, devise all of your "next actions" -- what you have to do next for each project to move forward. It will be obvious in this phase which projects are waiting on input from other people (note this too) and which you need to break down into smaller tasks.

I have lots more advice, but these are my best starting tips. I also highly recommend the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. And as a last word of advice, beating yourself up for not getting work done won't ever help you get work done. That's something I have to remind myself every day. :)

Aric Clark said...

Thanks for the solid tips 'sted.

I've made it a priority for next week to sit down and do it.

Nick.Larson said...

Thanks for the post Aric. But honestly welcome to my life. Most of the time I don't even get all my ideas written down. First of all most the don't really exist in my head before I tell them to someone. The problem with this is that I almost never have the ability to capture any of them when they are being generated (aka in conversation). So look at it this least you are starting to work on your ideas...

I think the tips offered in the comments are all good ones, but I also find that if I start making lists and trying to prioritize then that becomes the only thing I get accomplished. Even your last comment here "I've made it a priority for next week to sit down and do it." leave me to wonder about what your doing this week that is apparently so unimportant that next week is when you will get "it" done.

For me some of this comes down to finding ways to value things that we are doing now. Can't sometimes I wonder can't doing this be enough?

No wait your right, my next idea that one will save the world. :P