Okay…(deep breath)…I did it. Musicality is released. The website is redesigned. The store is running. I have customers. I have happy customers. All is well.
At some point I'm going to talk about the lessons I learned during the craziness of the past several months…just as soon as I figure out what exactly those lessons are. Today I'm just happy be out from under this rock with an opportunity to share one of those stupid simple why didn't I think of this six months ago quick improvements to my work-a-day.
The problem statement
I've got all these different area vying for attention. Improvements to Musicality are très importante, but I've got to run the business too, and the website needs serious work. And all those great, kind, (did I mention good-looking?) Premake users have been waiting patiently for a new release. And oh, the bank account is looking scary, and that iPhone app isn't going to code itself. I am making good progress on things, but I feel like whatever I'm not working on right now is falling through the cracks. Nagging, generalized anxiety.
I need balance. I need confidence that everything is under control. That I'm going to get to that very important thing that I need to get to, and soon. That everything is getting attention and enough of it (but not too much!).
Pomodoro to the rescue
I've talked about pomodoro before. 25 minutes on, five minutes off, repeat until done. (Funny side note: my friends and co-workers who read the blog always comment on what a good idea that is. But then they're surprised when they discover that, hey, I actually do it.) This pomodoro idea has always been kind of a background process. It is how I do my work, but has no bearing on what that work is.
After agonizing over how I could possibly manage everything I've put on my plate and accepting that I can't not do any of it (did you get that?), I decided to try a little experiment and give those humble pomodoro a bit more responsibility.
So. I get eight luscious pomodoro (sorry, it's just a fun word to say: pomodoro) each day, which is about what I can fit into a humane workday after all of my other scaffolds. I divide them up between the different bits of Industriousness to create a weekly schedule, which is currently just so:
And…um…well, I guess that's it. And, to be honest, I didn't really believe it would work. I mean, one hour a week on the website? On Premake? Really? But I was desperate so I gave it a go.
I'm a month into this experiement now and, like I said at the start, the results have been head smacking why didn't I do this sooner good.
Alright, so yeah, Premake is only getting an hour a week.* But it wasn't uncommon for me to get hung up on something else and go weeks without looking at it before. Now I'm guaranteed to look at it every week, and I'm building up a good rhythm. Stuff is getting checked off (and 4.3 is coming soon, for real).
All that anxiety about stuff falling through the cracks? About working on the wrong thing? Gone. All the mental energy spent juggling priorities? Now available for real work. All the prioritization has already been done! Everything is getting an appropriate amount of time relative to everything else, and all I've got to do is show up and work the lists. When I'm working on Musicality, I'm working on Musicality. Period, end of story. When the time runs out, I stop thinking about Musicality and I get on to the next thing.
This is seriously motivating. I get one hour this week to work on Premake. When that timer starts I am busting my ass to make it count. I don't check Twitter, or email, or anything else, even during the break. In fact, the only things I'm running at that point are my code editor, a terminal window, Things, and, if I need it, a browser window open to the Premake website. For that hour, that's all I need.
A nice bonus that I didn't expect: I'm having more fun. I wake up in the morning thinking whoo-hoo, it's Musicality day! and I'm totally into it. (Okay, that's pretty dorky now that I see it in writing. Still true though.) There's no oh, but there's those Premake patches that need to be applied, and I need to get more keywords in my AdWords campaign, and I still haven't watched the rest of the WWDC sessions, and… There's just Musicality and that damn Grooveshark integration that refuses to obey its master, and I can enjoy it completely guilt and anxiety free.
And finally: the schedule makes it clear when the day is over. Nothing is left open-ended. When I complete the last block I turn off, and I go away. Very clear line between working and not working. Better time with the family, better sleep, better mental health. Which means that when I am working, I work better.
* Those "free play" blocks give me the flexibility to spend a little more time on "hot" areas as needed. My one rule is that I can only work on stuff that is already on the schedule for that day. So, for instance, on Tuesdays I can only work on Musicality or Premake. Fridays I do my weekly/monthly/quarterly reviews; any time left over I use for whatever feels most important.