Blog Post

      Shifting the Spectrum - or - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Use Task Management Software


      The last month has been the most focused and productive month that I've had in a long time. About a month ago I attended the PyCon convention out in Cleveland, and I came back inspired and ready to rock and roll. I started by becoming very clear with myself on exactly what I wanted to be working on, and, maybe more importantly, what I didn't want to.

      Over the course of the last two years I've been taking on projects left and right. My thinking was that they would be easy to turnaround, profitable, and that they'd provide great exposure for me and my little business. While the latter most of those was true, I didn't have methods of project management or budgeting put in place, so there was no way that I could have accurately predicted the second two topics. So, what ended up happening to me is that I took on way too much work, and ended up burning myself out. (There's a bit of a cosmic joke in the fact that I quit a job that was stressing me out because of poor planning and too much work and created my own job that had poor planning and too much work).

      So the first thing I did when I came back was I cancelled the work that I had taken on that didn't project to be a good combination of manageable and profitable; and this time the determinations were made off of *gasp* actual financial projections. What that allowed me to do was reset all of my work structure, and really focus on what I wanted to be working on; and how to make money in a way that will be sustainable.

      The second thing that I did when I came back was really dive into my calendar and project management software. Somewhere over the course of the last few months I realized that part of what was driving me so insane was that I was trying to memorize all of my tasks, or at best was writing them down on whiteboards that I would then promptly stop looking at or forget. But over the last six weeks I've utilized and maintained an Asana tasklist (Asana.com, if anyone is looking for a product, it's been extremely effective for me) and in doing so I've freed my brain from trying and failing to memorize every small task that I want to do. Now when I think of it I schedule it somewhere in the future and then keep doing what I was doing. This has allowed me to maintain a focus that I'd been missing since the days of having Salesforce and Jira queues.

      The result of all of this is that I've started really reclaiming my sanity. I was struggling hard just 8 weeks ago with depression and feelings of being overwhelmed, and while some of that is still there, everything seems more manageable now. And the thing is that I'm actually doing more than I was before. It's only been 4 weeks, but so far I've managed to:

      • Contribute to open source software once a week
      • Take on two new paying clients, one of which requires much more than just my technical brain
      • Keep up with the house cleaning
      • Stand up a personal website, and focus on marketing myself through other avenues
      • Keep up with working out and running
      • Keep my pet projects in my periphery. Things like writing blog posts and focusing on the stuff I want to work on that I'm not getting paid to work on always seemed undoable, now I've got those tasks on my list, and I can set schedules and expectations around them that aren't pushing too hard, but are also not letting those projects just slip under the rug.

      As a result of all of that I feel like my life is more balanced. For what feels like maybe the first time in my life I always feel like I'm moving forward on everything that I want to do. And the task list has even made it clear what I want to be working on by putting a direct gateway between me and my time. I have a tendency to say that I'll do anything, but now it's become clear that if I actually intend to do it I'm going to put it on the calendar, and I only put things on the calendar that I really want to do.


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