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20 Apr

Make the thresholds low

Datum: 2011-04-20 13:28

Does the fact that you fre­quent­ly do duties which you have per­formed before, only in a dif­fer­ent month, for a dif­fer­ent project or for a dif­fer­ent cus­tomer, sound familiar?

It may involve extract­ing sta­tis­tics, doing a month­ly report, ini­ti­at­ing a deliv­ery to a new client or some­thing like this. Per­haps you read a struc­tur­al tip I pub­lished a while back in which I advised you to cre­ate a sim­ple check­list of all steps in the tasks you per­form every now and then, so that you do not have to make the effort of recall­ing what it is you usu­al­ly do when you are … (what­ev­er it may be about).

Is it also famil­iar that you have so much to do that you are not up to or capa­ble of assem­bling neat, com­plete, well-struc­tured check­lists or process descrip­tions? It is com­mon to feel hes­i­tant about intro­duc­ing a tool which would great­ly facil­i­tate you work for the sole rea­son that it feels like too much work to get start­ed with the tool itself, in spite of know­ing that it would be good for us.

Do not feel deject­ed — the world is designed in such a way that you do not need to do a com­plete doc­u­men­ta­tion of each rou­tine. It will suf­fice to a lit­tle, espe­cial­ly to begin with.

One thing we can learn from the folk musician

I have a good friend who not only is my fel­low vio­lin-fid­dler, but also a high­ly skilled folk musi­cian. If you are famil­iar with the Swedish folk music reper­toire, you will know that there is an incred­i­ble amount of songs and that you rarely play by sheet music. This means that you will have to remem­ber how all the pieces are played once you get togeth­er to play.

Rather than car­ry­ing a few box­es of sheet music with her, she car­ries a much thin­ner bun­dle of sheet music in which she has writ­ten out how every song (that she knows) start, for exam­ple, the first four bars. If she begins to play the first bars aid­ed by the score, she remem­bers the rest of the song, and off she goes.

This sounds famil­iar. If only I can get start­ed, the rest often comes by itself. The beau­ty of this is that we can use this expe­ri­ence when it comes to describ­ing our routines.

Do this

  1. Chose one of the rou­tines, tasks or things you do in a sim­i­lar way on a some­what recur­ring basis.
  2. When you are about to do it next time, open an emp­ty doc­u­ment in your favorite word-processor.
  3. If it feels too much to describe the entire rou­tine, begin with the first steps, for instance, the first three steps. Write First…”, Then…”, and And after that…” as you go through the process and come to think of how you usu­al­ly do it.
  4. Leave the doc­u­men­ta­tion after those first three steps and save the check­list in the one and only place where you keep these (so that you will be able to find it eas­i­ly) under a clear and descrip­tive name.
  5. The next time you are about to per­form the rou­tine, take out the check­list with the three first steps and fol­low it.
  6. Notice if you con­tin­ue with the task auto­mat­i­cal­ly once you have got­ten start­ed or if you would need to describe the rest of the steps as well for the check­list to be tru­ly help­ful. Adjust it if you need to.
  7. If you feel that it ful­fills its pur­pose, begin doc­u­ment­ing anoth­er rou­tine, and anoth­er one, et c.

Here is the point of it all

If you make the thresh­olds to get­ting start­ed low with this method, you will have more time for oth­er things since the time it takes you to adjust to a new task decreas­es, since you get start­ed faster, since you spend less time recall­ing the pro­ce­dure. Besides, it is nice to not pro­cras­ti­nate what you tend to push ahead of you due to not quite remem­ber­ing how to do it. 

The risk of only doc­u­ment­ing the begin­ning of the tasks is that you might not remem­ber how to pro­ceed when you have tak­en the first three steps you have writ­ten down. And this will leave you strand­ed where you stopped documenting. 

If you feel you can take that risk, enjoy not hav­ing to do com­plete check­lists and that you still prof­it great­ly from the work you have done previously.

It works for my fid­dler-friend – per­haps it will work for you as well.

How do you do it?

What is you way of not hav­ing to think too hard about what to do when you are about to per­form a rou­tine task? Leave a com­ment to let me and oth­er read­ers know.