Planning vs. Working

“Going Meta” is one of my favorite coping strategies when there’s some piece of boring work in front of me that I’d rather avoid. When you aren’t working the work, kick the abstraction level up a notch and work on working on the work. A great way to fool yourself into thinking that you’re being productive. Works almost every time.

So there I was, sitting at my desk, actively avoiding some particularly boring paperwork task, when I started pondering the problem of having the problem of being stuck on the task. Usually, this goes nowhere, but tonight I think it paid off.

The “duh” answer to my stuckness is that I was letting myself get distracted too easily. The slightly deeper, but still pretty shallow answer was there there where too many distractions within my range of vision. As I sat there, looking at what was in sight, I realized that much of what was directly visible in my work area was planning artifacts. On the wall behind my desk are two magnetic boards that are covered with index cards. Most of the cards are about various projects and other stuff that needs to get done. When my eyes wander off of the screen, they invariably land on some reminder of something else that’s not done (or not even started), and my attention gets drawn into planning, and away from whatever concrete task I was intending to make progress on. I’ll eventually snap out of the planning trance and get back to work, but the next time my eyes drift, off I go into the planning again.

Tomorrow, the magnetic boards get moved to a different wall. I still need them for planning, but they have no business interfering when I’m work mode.