Alex Stockwell

UX, DevOps, Fatherhood, Miscellany. Not in that order.

My Biggest Time Waster

Work has been so go-go-go lately, but I still have the ingrained meta-awareness of my productivity levels from back when I obsessively captured and categorized and GTDed. And I’ve realized more and more what my single biggest time sink was … and still is, to some degree.

Partial completion.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but let me explain. I frequently would (and still do) start a task, ramp my mind up to it, begin working through it, and then abandon it to complete another time. Sometimes I was interrupted (the argument of urgent _vs. important _is for another day) and switched gears. Sometimes I was “multi-tasking” and just never made it back. I think I justified it to myself by knowing it was something I had to get done, so I would dive into it just enough to keep the mental cob-webs cleared out, make menial progress that I sold to myself as productivity, and then move on. Craziness, I know. And even more so knowing what I do about the research into task-switching, such as the findings that it takes approximately 20 minutes to become truly engrossed in a task before you start making real progress.

So I’ve resolved to do this less. And it’s more difficult than I expected. Pushing through to completion of a task takes (obviously) more mental energy than just refreshing it in mind. But at the same time, keeping a carousel of ever-rotating tasks in my head is also draining. Overall the net effect is about the same, except that I think after the fact I feel a little better, a little more accomplished.