Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

#31: Momentum

This week’s challenge has been momentum. How to find it. How to keep it. How to sustain it.

I say it because my week was bookended by watching the kids, made necessary by some day care closings and shuffling around. Rewarding days, and one’s that I try not to take for granted. But trying to slide back and forth between dad mode and work mode all the time like that makes momentum very hard.

The ideal state would be something like flow, where I could build up a bit of inertia and really dig into this thing or that, at home or with work. Flow was easier in my 20’s. These days it’s more about strategies that help me move around and stay productive.

Breaking things up helps. Blocks of time help (I’ve gotten pretty good at writing in 30 minute chunks). But the most important part is prioritizing everything. I have to make sure that when I get a bit of time, and I sit down and do something, I’m not falling into a trap of making incremental progress on something meaningless.

I once saw this called procastgress

Progress is better than perfection, but it’s important to not fall into the trap of what I call procrastgress – little bits of progress that are not getting any closer to done, and in fact are just a form of procrastination. Procrastgress

One thing I do is keep a list of all of the projects that I’m chipping away at.

I call it my Incremental Progress List.

It’s a big list of all of the things I can’t just finish as a simple task. In the larger productivity world, it’s probably something more like a habit, but I find that they have an end. Larger documentation handbooks or internal tools I’m working on at work. Organizing the garage, cleaning out the shed.

I’ve added a progress bar under each project on the list. Every time I do a bit more, I tick the progress bar up. It’s a manual thing, based on more or less where I think I am. But it helps me to feel like I’m working towards something.

Sometimes I have a spare 30 minutes, and when I do, I don’t want to have to think about what to do. So I check the Incremental Progress list, grab something doable, and chip away at another 30 minutes.

The hardest part is getting that list in front of myself at the right time. It sounds a little bit silly, but I need to turn it into a habit that I mechanically reach for. It’s too easy for my brain to get distracted by actual procrastination otherwise. So that’s what’s next for me.

Marcus Aurelius on choosing kindness.

Try living the life of a good man* and see how it too suits you — a man who’s gratified by the lot he’s been assigned by the universe and satisfied with the justice of his acts and the kindness of his character.

May 26, 2024


May 23, 2024

Mandy Brown, with another simple and elegantly put life-changing tip

Here’s a small trick that worked for me over the dozen years I led remote teams: at the end of your working day, shut down every app on your machine. Yes, all of them. Stash your tabs somewhere if you must, but close them all down. The only exception that may be made is for a simple note-taking app—the kind that lacks any kind of notifications. Then, spend ten or perhaps fifteen minutes reflecting on your day, whether in said note-taking app or, even better, on paper. This needn’t be anything formal or structured, just jot a few things down—maybe short phrases, maybe just some key words. The only hard rule is to do your best to keep any sense of judgement out. Then, in the morning, when you open up your machine, there should be nothing yelling at you—no unread badges, no cluster of notifications calling for your attention. At that point, you can reverse the practice, and spend a few minutes thinking ahead to the day that you want to have, and anything you think is important to keep your attention on, even as everything and everyone else tries to drag that attention in a million other directions.