Starting and stopping a project is suicide. Ideally we could dive in to a project for 50 hours and just get the thing done. Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t made for that kind of thing. Unless you’re a cyborg, you’re limited by:
- limbs getting tired or restless
- and did I say focus?
In college I’d occasionally stay up all night to write a paper I’d procrastinated on. The results were never, ever good. These nocturnal writing sessions produced the same quality of writing as a monkey plunking on the keyboard. And my grades confirmed my suspicions.
Yet there is one aspect of just plowing through a project that I do find helpful: you don’t have to keep figuring out where you left off. For example: I’m in the middle of a very big project. Unfortunately, when I try to pick up where I stopped working the previous day, I have a hard time getting back into the proper frame of mind. I can spend up to 30 minutes reverse engineering what it was exactly that I was working on the day before.
Gaps in our work are hard to come back from. Especially if you’re doing something that requires intense creativity. You have to get back into the mindset of the project. You have to wrap your head around the entire concept, to really be able to continue where you left the project at.
I’ve found that the only way to really wrap my head around something is to force myself back into the “zone”, so to speak. If it’s writing, I’ll re-read everything I’ve written, so as to recapture that mindset. If it’s programming, then I’ll have to go look at SVN commits, or just start digging around the code. Anything to get my mind back into the frame of the task at hand.
Once I finally wrap my head around the project, it’s not hard to get back into gear. It’s the process of climbing back up to the previous ledge and pushing forward that is a tad difficult.
There are plenty of techniques to help you remember where you left off in a project. Here are a couple that I use that never fail me:
- If I know I’m going to be revisiting the project quickly, I leave open all tools, documents, etc., so it’s like a visual snapshot
- I take detailed notes as to what I was thinking, feeling and doing when I stopped working
These techniques are simple, but they take a while to get used to. If you can become more mindful of what you’re working on, odds are you’ll get into the flow easier and quicker.
What do you guys use to get back into the continuity of the project?
Photo by coral11.