Rome wasn’t built in a day is one of the adages you might have heard. Many projects and tasks that I have had in the past and those that are in my inbox are deadline driven. So, the deadlines bring in the drive to complete them. However, there are some tasks which are nice to do, and they do not have any deadlines. They get postponed all the time, particularly because there is no deadline attached. How does one tackle this situation? Micro-progress. Mark the task on your calendar, do a little (barely minimum) work and write that down in the description. Now, postpone the task to some other date. That’s it! The next time, the task shows up, do the exact same thing.
Solpa adjust maadi
“Solpa” in Kannada (a South Indian language) means “a little”. This gesture is not only in use in Italy, but truck drivers in India use it a lot. Picture one truck wanting to overtake another truck in a two-lane highway. The truck in front has to give some sort of signal for the truck driver to go ahead, so that the person behind knows that it is all clear for them to go ahead. The truck in front realizes that there is a curve ahead and hence, it may not be a good idea. So, they signal this message using the gesture above.
My ex-colleague and I used to joke that the gesture meant “just a little longer” or as they would say in Bangalore “Solpa adjust maadi” (“Please excuse me” would be the closest translation).
The method I prescribe below is the “solpa adjust maadi” of the productivity world.
Put an end to procrastination
Procrastination is one of the biggest problems I have had with non-deadline driven tasks or projects.
A few months ago, I had a proposal to write. A good habit I have is that I put down tasks like these on my calendar. In the same vein, I did put down this task on my calendar. But, the bad part is, I kept postponing the task, since it is so easy to postpone. I reasoned out that it was I, the task owner, who was postponing it. I had a good reason to do this–it is not time yet to do this–or so I told myself.
Six months passed by, without me knowing it. I was about to delete the task for ever, when I saw a video (the video link is given below). Hmmm… micro-progress. So, I decided to adopt this technique. I wasn’t sure if it would work.
The method - progress little by little, even two minutes at one shot
You can read my descriptions from the proposal (the original content masked a bit)
- Day 1 - “Think about the timeline of the project”
- Day 2 - “Week 1 - Intro”
- Day 3 - “Should also include Prof. X in the project”
- Day 4 - “Total 4 weeks for the project”
- Day 5 - “Schedule a call with Prof. X”, I quickly wrote an email to Prof. X to see if he was available
- Day 6 - “Wow! So many ideas! I had a good chat with Prof. X”
- Day 7 - I finished quite a bit of the proposal at one go, since I committed to Prof. X that I’d complete the work by our next meeting, 2 weeks away.
Ok, let me reveal a secret to you. This post was written in 8 installments. I used a clock timer in my favourite text editor - emacs.
CLOCK: [2020-09-07 Mon 05:27]--[2020-09-07 Mon 05:32] => 0:05 CLOCK: [2020-09-06 Sun 12:40]--[2020-09-06 Sun 12:46] => 0:06 CLOCK: [2020-08-28 Fri 05:06]--[2020-08-28 Fri 05:07] => 0:01 CLOCK: [2020-08-26 Wed 06:18]--[2020-08-26 Wed 06:20] => 0:02 CLOCK: [2020-08-24 Mon 06:32]--[2020-08-24 Mon 06:33] => 0:01 CLOCK: [2020-08-24 Mon 06:29]--[2020-08-24 Mon 06:33] => 0:04 CLOCK: [2020-08-20 Thu 06:26]--[2020-08-20 Thu 06:28] => 0:02 CLOCK: [2020-08-18 Tue 11:16]--[2020-08-18 Tue 11:20] => 0:04
- Mark the task on your calendar
- Do a little (barely minimum) work on the appointment date and time
- Write that down in the description of the task.
- Postpone the task to some other date.
- That’s it! The next time, the task shows up, do the exact same thing.
Note - This method is the exact opposite of getting into a flow state, hence I have only tried this method for tasks that don’t require intense concentration (my own judgment).
If you are following this method of micro-progress on a task you chose and your boss asks for progress on the task, you can tell them “Solpa Adjust Maadi”.