Another week, another inspirational nugget and technical article.
Inspirational Nugget of the Week
What Does "Done" Mean?
What are you working on currently? How will you know when you are done with it?
More often than not, I feel that I don't have a definition of done for my work. I stop working when the day is over and I start working again the next day. But I have no clear definition of when a task is done. I don't know how long it will take to be "done" and I don't know when I should stop working on it.
For small tasks, like adding a feature or fixing a bug in a codebase this definition of done is pretty clear. I'm done when I've fixed the bug, tested it, and deployed it to production.
As I progress through my career, the tasks become more and more unspecified, though. No one provides a definition of done for me anymore. I have to know myself when something is "done".
So, I've built the habit of defining what done means for all of my tasks. Here's how I do it and how it helps me.
Structure your day in increments: to be able to be "done" with my work for the day, I structure the day in increments. A maximum of 3 focus sessions per day to get things done. Usually just 1 or 2 sessions, depending on my calendar that day. In the evening I think about the next day's focus sessions. I have a backlog of tasks in Trello which I use for inspiration. Then, for each session, I think about what I want to make progress on and define a minimum viable action that brings me forward to that goal. This is the action I do first in each session. When this action is done, I have achieved my goal for the session and can feel accomplished.
Fight perfectionism: a daily structure like the above helps me to fight perfectionism. When the "minimum viable action" is done, I'm done with this session. I don't need to work anymore on it. It doesn't mean that I will never revisit the project I've been working on, but I won't do it right now. This gives me a bit of distance to the project before deciding the next step, which makes a decision more rational.
"Past a certain point, more effort doesn't produce better performance. It sabotages our performance" - Greg McKeown in "Effortless"
Fight procrastination: the daily structure not only helps to fight perfectionism but also procrastination. If you have a plan for the day, it's so much easier to get started on the work. I'm selecting the work the evening before, at the latest, so that I don't have to spend willpower on decisions what to work on during the day.
When I'm done with my daily sessions, I have time for things like checking emails and chat messages, organizing myself, and socializing.
Of course, it doesn't work out every day. I get distracted by another task or there is a fire to be fought and I can't get a session done or even plan the next session. But I'm trying to get back into a rhythm of work. And this rhythm only works when I know when I'm done with something.