43 Folders

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

What next action?

Sometimes you reach a point with a project where you can't say that there's a single "next action." Or rather, if you can isolate a discrete "next action," it's one that's going to take several months.

One example: Writing a novel requires research, and so on, but there's a time when you sit down to write. What's your "next action" there? Write chapter one? But there's only an arbitrary mark dividing it from chapter two.

Or another: One of my projects is advancing my level of Japanese, and as part of that, I'm working on 6 characters per day. It'll take me several months to get through that, but every time I finish for the day, my "next action" is still exactly what it was before.

Is there something obvious that I'm missing?

two.olives's picture

One thing I've done in...

One thing I've done in these situations (although I'm neither a writer nor learning Japanese) is "Spend 15 minutes writing". Yes, your following NA is still going to be the same, but it offers an end in sight. For those of us who are easily distracted and get bored quickly, the thought that I'm only agreeing to spend 15 minutes is helpful in overcoming the mental barriers. Sometimes I'll start with the 15 minutes and just keep going because I'm in the zone. Othertimes, 15 minutes is painfully long and I'm so thankful that its done and I get to check it off the list.

I've used this method with reading assignments, writing assignments, designing websites, brainstorming ideas, and even household chores that are long (ie, clean the garage). I've found it helps overcome the overload feeling of "This task is going to take me 4 hours/4 weeks/4 months" without having to try to plan the entire project out right now. I find it allows for more freedom and changes in how you process the actual work, at the expense of having a slightly less specific list of NA's.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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