When I set out to do something for the first time, or when a task feels unfamiliar, I approach it with Doing Mode. I break down the task into manageable chunks and concentrate on doing just one thing at a time. This is usually the quickest way for me to get the task done. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to sit and plan, but it does give me a lot of time to just do something.
And once I’ve got the hang of this new task, I try switching over to the Thinking Mode. This means taking the time to plan and think about the task in advance, and mentally reviewing what I’m going to be doing before I start. Taking a few hours out to think about what all needs to be done and when is often much faster than actually trying to do those things.
My core approach to a new task includes the steps below:
1.Breaking the down the task.
I break a task into its smallest component parts. This is also what I do when I’m in Doing Mode. As I go, I continue to break it down until my list of subtasks includes all of the activities that need to be done to accomplish the task
2.Estimating the subtasks
I estimate how long I think each task will take (in hours, days, or weeks). This is difficult on some tasks. If so, I go back to step 1 and break it down further.
3.Clumping all the subtasks into one time estimate
Once I have estimated the time for each sub task, I put them together and come up with a total estimate.
Even though this is my core approach, I know that something unexpected might happen that takes me away from my tasks. So, when I’m on the Thinking Mode, time estimation is not the only information I collect. I collect all the random information about the task—do I enjoy working on it, what are the distractions, do I need new tools, is there a way to do it more efficiently, etc. I cannot answer all those questions at once but in time I gather more and more information and deepen my thinking. That is when the task actually becomes fun.
When I cannot start doing something right away, I trick my brain to do it by a third mode—Trying Mode. Sometimes I feel unsure about my upcoming task and cannot right away start working on it, which means I get stuck in Doing Mode. In that case, I try taking some time out to plan what needs to be done and when. I find out what is the easiest thing to do, and I try to do it. Trying Mode gives me some momentum and psychologically helps me to keep going.