The Downside of Claiming “Done”

I’ve been seeing some posts going around lately about an inspirational essay written by a guy who said “done” is a magical word that can cause all sorts of happiness in you and those around you.

I’m simplifying. I should look-up the original essay and provide a link – sorry, just wanted to get these ideas out now.

“Done” is a great feeling – sure. Heck, I’ve been doing the “Getting Things Done” methodology in various forms since around 2005 or 2006. It’s good to feel progress and be able to point to a specific result that ensures you aren’t just kidding yourself.

But… in the hapless world of everything moving quicker than anyone can perceive… it’s a little too easy to claim “done” when in fact you are just frustrated with the challenge and don’t want to go on.

It’s hard to get to done. Harder than many people realize. And, of course it’s a murky territory because there can be all sorts of opinions about what “done” means.

But it’s easy to say you are done when you really should still be working on the thing. Many people won’t notice a premature “I’m done” simply because they are so caught-up in their own mess that they have no time or mental space to think about the mess you are working on. Maybe they’re just happy to know that somebody in this crazy world is done with something, so they’re happy to put their stamp of approval on what you said you did.

Next time you say you’re done, try to look at it from the perspective of someone who has all the time in the world to work on the thing. Would that person really come to the same conclusion that you just did?

Do things like snow have to cripple our productivity?

[Tweet “Maybe the snow isn’t as crippling as we assume.”]

After the snow, it seems reasonable to send out the plows and clear the streets.

Keep a good staff close-at-hand, get the equipment ready, and then deploy them all. Within hours, folks will be able to get back to what they are used to doing – working, attending to their daily tasks, moving about.

But it’s not a simple solution. Although it’s the standard solution, the plows also cause a lot of damage. Afterwards, the streets are riddled with new potholes, and those won’t even be patched until the following Spring. It could be another few years before the potholes are more permanently repaired with new paving. And if you live in a city like New York, it could all take much longer than that – it’s just not possible to efficiently make the repairs without also crippling the roads that folks depend on so much.

There probably isn’t a better answer to the problem of the cycle of snow and plows and pothole repairs. But there are certainly different solutions. One option might be to reduce the dependence on an absolute necessity to get everything up and running again as quickly as possible, so that the harsh solution of the plows can be replaced with something that is a little less damaging.

But that requires a sea-change, since folks tend to assume that up and running is most important, and also tend to assume that when a process or daily activity is modified in a big way then that equates to NOT being up and running.

Maybe the snow isn’t as crippling as we assume. Maybe we are at a point where life can go on just as productively with the snow as it does normally.

Maybe that requires some big changes in thinking, but the rewards of the change in thinking can be even greater.

Point-in-time… and go!

Scratched cardboard card with sun

As a technologist and a software developer, I think a lot about the current state of a system, the history of a system, and how to understand what exactly a system looked like at a particular point-in-time. That’s important because without this understanding you can’t isolate and troubleshoot technical problems based on the impact of changes made to the system.

So naturally, when thinking about the project of this blog (Working Sandbox), I have a similar sort of outlook.

A new collaboration

Recently my wife and I had a re-think about what Working Sandbox should be. For several years, it was a personal blog for me – a place where I tried out new ideas, wrote on a wide variety of topics, occasionally even posted some fiction.

The underlying idea of the blog, though, was always to be both a “Sandbox” and a “Working” one. So, a place to try stuff, but always with an emphasis on being something that “works” or is functional at all times.

If it’s broke, er… you did something wrong

No broken blogs allowed – better to have something that’s not-quite-right but still somewhat functional than to have something that is outright broken.

The world should always work. Your world should always work.

Everything is your world.

So when we started discussing the new direction for the blog, I approached it the same way.

The two requirements of the new project

On the one hand, I (we, really) had a monumental task of taking years of writing about a wide range of topics and turning that into something more focused on its new theme:

Flexible work for better living

On the other hand, we wanted to do it without either losing all of the past good ideas (even the ones that only seem marginally related) and without making the whole new project take months to launch.

So, what to do…

Just go!

We just moved forward.

You can reinvent and move forward without destroying all of the past.

You can build something new without first sitting down to address every past issue.

And the past will fall into line…

Most of the old content is still here on the blog, lurking in the background but simply not very visible and unlikely to be seen. Some of the old content is being re-written on a daily basis to re-purpose it for the new direction. And then some of the old content simply got blown away.

But most importantly, we’re movin’ forward…