I told myself I’d only write for an hour or so today. But I started at 8am, and now it’s 6pm. So what the bejeezus happened?
I like diving deep into projects, so I find it hard to switch tasks midway through. Usually I’d try to force myself to do so anyway. Which is perhaps what I should have done today since my main priority is working on Studbits.
But then I remembered a piece of advice I recevied a few years ago. I emailed Derek Sivers asking him how he balanced multiple projects and had accomplished so much. His response:
I thought about his advice and said screw it. I’m going to keep writing.
I’m fond of having done so, because I feel like it’s going to be some of my best work. In fact, the last time I got distracted by a project because of this feeling was last year. Rather than directly working on Studbits, I extracted some of the code I used to handle server rendering and created Rouge.js. It ended up being my first open-source project to reach 1k stars on Github (for developers that’s a big deal!). But even more than that, another startup heard about it and reach out to me, and that’s how I got the contracting job that’s financially supporting me now as I build Studbits. Funny how things work out.
The reason I’m writing about this now, years later, is because I’ve finally realized what makes his advice so good. It’s about more than just context switching. It’s about developing your instincts. When you feel compelled to work on something, there’s usually a reason for it. The only way you’ll figure out why that is, is by making time to do the work. By seeing it through.
There’s tactics you can use to context switch. Such as doing important work first and indulging yourself later, as a reward. This would be a better long-term solution if, like me, you need to stay accountable to other important commitments.
But some days you can’t help but work on something else. There’s too much on your mind and you need to get it out. That’s where this advice comes in.
What needs to get done will get done eventually, and it’ll all s–l--o–w--y add up into a mix of big accomplishments, but there’s a reason you feel like working on this specific thing today. Indulge it. Rather than fighting your inclinations and switching to a more important project, to the extent that you can’t, “Just don’t!”