Disclaimer: This post, like most of my posts, was written over the course of two weeks, in spurts between planned and prioritized tasks. Normally, disjointed timelines are edited out so you have a smoother read. I’m departing from that norm and keeping the disjointed time to help better illustrate the overall point of integrating serendipity into a controlled, planned work habit. For the curious, the post itself was developed from Nov 17th through Nov 28th in micro-spurts (as I explain below).
In this post, I explained that I recently started using a Kanban for organizing my personal life, not just work stuff.
What I wasn’t able to discuss in that post from fear of making too winding of a narrative is the nature of experimentation and it’s role (or “capacity”) in a somewhat rigid system like a Kanban.
When I wrote that post, it may not be clear that the Kanban is itself an experiment that I’m running to see how it affects productivity. After a month of using the Kanban to balance all my tasks (not just work), I’m happy with the decision to use it. The single complaint I have is that in the process of switching to the Kanban, I lost my “goals for November” list. I’m blaming the Kanban because it fundamentally lacks a capacity for understanding ‘goals’ in relation to ‘tasks.’ I was able to work out a workaround for December (yes, I am a control freak and plan for December in November.)
Also in that post, I wasn’t able to talk about how despite the rigidity of the Kanban and a process-oriented, organized life, there is still room for serendipitous moments. After organizing our lives, we will put the most important tasks on top, but that does not mean those are the only tasks we can do.
As proof of that, I’m writing this now. The post won’t likely see the light of the Internet for a couple of weeks because I tend to write far in advance of my publishing cycles but I should be putting the groceries away. That is, I went shopping and decided upon walking in the house that I had to drop everything (literally) and write a few ideas down.
Rather than worrying about thawing frozen fruit, I’m taking a quick moment to capture my thinking. I won’t develop this post now to full completion immediately but there will be a sufficient skeleton structure in place such that when I do plan on publishing it, most of the work will be done. Nonetheless, I’m working outside the normal confines of my plans. This segue is just a quick micro-distraction long enough to capture my idea—and that’s it.
There’s no real way to capture these moments in a Kanban (or any other project management process). And there’s no reason to even try. My stance is that we should simply embrace the distraction, follow it to a sufficient stopping point (that we can come back to easily) and then continue with the regularly planned schedule.
In many ways, this is procrastination. I know I have a really important task to do—in the grocery instance (Nov 17th-ish), it’s the fear of having to clean up melted fruit juice; as of Nov 28th, it’s a matter of shipping some Dragon’s Eggs to pre-order customers. But I’m putting “it” off to do something more interesting to me.
While I’m not going to argue that we should all procrastinate because (in my experience) procrastination is a really slippery slope, I do argue that procrastination doesn’t have to mean “not doing anything relevant or important.” Or that procrastination only means, “playing video games or Magic the Gathering instead of writing marketing plans or debugging code.”
Sometimes we can be equally (if not more) productive by using another lower priority task to procrastinate on a higher priority task.
In this instance, I’m procrastinating on putting the groceries away! (As of Nov 28th, I’m procrastinating on going to the post office because it’s raining like mad outside and the thought of the post office during the holiday rush on a rainy day sounds really crappy.) By using other tasks to procrastinate on other needs-to-be-done, you’re constantly getting things done. Doing this pseudo-procrastination will help you be more productive in a single day than many people you know. (Seriously. People waste a lot of time and the universe knows I’ve been guilty it.)
There are some people like Brian Tracy who will argue that you should only focus on “A-Tasks,” the tasks that will directly impact your finical or career success. While I do agree that roughly 90% of your time should be spent on high-value tasks, it doesn’t mean that we should allow this structure to rule our lives. Sometimes, we just have to do what we feel like doing.
It helps if those “right now” things feed into larger goals or create a cascading affect with other life priorities, but I wouldn’t argue that’s a necessity. (Coming back a week later) For example, though I’m not working on Nomicly right now (arguably the most important task I can do), I am working on something that is important to me (belching my ego to the rest of the world). Doing this task feeds into a sense of accomplishment, powering me up for a bigger, more difficult task (programing, refining a pitch deck, marketing plans, prep’ing for meetings, etc).
The point is that when we’re excited about a subject or task, we’ll often complete it really fast. We get into the zone. We have momentum going for us. We’re enjoying ourselves—and how cool is to actually enjoy ourselves while doing something important and meaningful?
The Kanban can help organize the microtasks that feed into our macro-goals, but it doesn’t allow for creative procrastination. So, while I’m a firm believer in doing the important tasks that make meaningful changes to our lives (and organizing ourselves so that we can identify those meaningful tasks), I also strongly believe that we need to allow ourselves to explore spontaneous hunches and desires without worry that we’re working outside the plan. Sometimes, I suppose, we just need a little break from the rigidity to excel in other areas of our lives.
Okay, procrastination done. Time to put the groceries away…(or in the case of today, go to the post office and ship Dragon’s Eggs…)