Step 1: Redo From Start

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Last week, I started looking back over my flawed “boom and bust” working cycle, with the eye towards seeing how can avoid the pitfalls of previous attempts, improve upon my systems, and hopefully end up breaking the cycle completely. These are all lofty goals, and they might be unachievable at this time, but by critically examining my thought patterns and processes, I can maybe achieve them in the future at some point.

This week, we will start at the beginning – Step 1: Decide to Start a New Project. This is an important step, although most people don’t realise it, let alone critically examine it. After all, without making the decision to actually start a project, nothing can begin.

face_question_markDo You Really Need to Start a New Project?

Generally, this step is often associated with starting a NEW project, yet this doesn’t have to be the case. It is tempting to throw away all the old ideas, get rid of all the clutter, and begin again from scratch. A blank sheet can often be intimidating, but for many people it can be enticing and invigorating.

I often fall for this – being all too eager throw away my past work, thoughts, and ideas, in order to get to a fresh page, a fresh project, and a fresh start. In many ways, this article series can be seen as a manifestation of this trait. I typically draw a line under my previous work and move on, completely forgetting and abandoning what I did before.

So, what can be done about this trait? The first step is to acknowledge it, and to understand why the urge to completely start over, exists. In my case, it is typically because abandoned ideas equate to failed ideas, and I don’t like to be reminded of my past attempts and failures. I want to look towards the future, and as such, I am tempted to ignore the past, which often dooms me to make the same mistakes, and trap me in the “boom and bust” work cycle which I am trying to escape from.

Instead, the decision should be made whether or not a new project is actually necessary. Could a simple restart and refresh of the previous material be a better option? Could looking back at a previous project be desirable. Are there things that could be finished up, or recycled, in your current project(s)?

For me, these are all valid options, but ironically, in this instance, I have already made the decision to start a NEW project. After all, this is a NEW article series, based on a theme that I haven’t considered before. If I opted to continue a previous project, this article wouldn’t be getting written, and I wouldn’t be critically examining my working cycle in this way.

paper-pileWhat About Your Old Material?

Having made the decision to start a new project, there is still a bit more to this step. After all, if we are working on a new project, we still have to decide what to do with the old material. Old material can often clutter your mind, your harddrive, and your workspace, and often can distract you from finishing your current project.

Generally, there are three approaches to this critical question, and the answer you take seems to have a significant impact upon how likely you are to return to the “boom and bust” working cycle in due course.

  1. Keep Your Old Material
  2. Destroy Your Old Material
  3. Archive Your Old Material

There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these methods, and understanding these can be the difference between success and failure, both of this project, and of future projects.

paper-pilesKeeping Your Old Material

Keeping your old material is often the easiest approach, and has the advantage that you don’t spend time clearing your mind, harddrive, and workspace in preparation for your new project. It allows you to resume your previous project at any time, or to refer to your previous notes and ideas. This can be advantageous if your current project is somehow related to your previous work.

The downside is that you can easily be distracted from your current project by your previous work. Focus can be impaired, as you often feel the draw to improve your previous attempts when you refer to the material. Storage can become confusing, and mistakes can creep in. Plus, you often don’t get the sense of a “clean start” that could otherwise invigorate your work.

paper_fire_01_100707Destroying Your Old Material

Destroying your old material is an option, and is good for providing the blank sheet that sometimes helps push a new project onwards. It allows for an efficient, distraction-free, working environment and mindset, that often allows for a sharper focus on the task at hand.

On the downside, destroying old material often means that you might find yourself inadvertently retracing old steps and repeating tasks that you have already covered, and sometimes even making the same mistakes. You have only your memory for reference, and it comes down to your capacity to learn to avoid such pitfalls. In addition, who knows when you are going to want to consider restarting or returning to a previous project?

SBC_sr-a26Archiving Your Old Material

Archiving your old material is considered a compromise between these two extremes. It allows you to store your old material in a way that is fairly easy to retrieve, but is not so distracting when you are working on your current project. Archiving can give that sense of a new start, without the finality of never being able to return to previous ideas.

The downsides of archiving are that it is essentially an extra step that can often be time consuming and get in the way of the invigorating energy of starting a new project. In addition, you can end up with a lot of material that simply becomes too much of a chore to search through at a later date.

downloadMy Approach – Past and Present

For me, I used to destroy all my previous work, because I really needed that “fresh start” to fire me up and get me working. However, I would still end up burning out, and then found myself going back over the same material, essentially repeating the same project over and over, while never seeming to get any closer to finishing it.

This is clearly a key factor in my continuing “boom and bust” working cycle, and changing this is a good start to trying to break this cycle. For the past few projects, I have started archiving my material instead, allowing me the uncluttered mindset that I require to work, but meaning that I don’t necessarily have to repeat content I created in the past. As of yet, I have not got to the point where I would commonly end up repeating my work, so I have not found whether this is actually a better approach for me yet. Time will tell.

After deciding to start/continue a new project, and what you are going to do with your old material, it is time to move on to Step 2. We will cover this next week, so until then stay AWESOME.

“Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends…”

charge!It has been a long time since I actually did any work. Too long, in fact. It has been little under five months since I even sat down at my keyboard and tried putting down my ideas into anything resembling usefulness.

As usual, after such a long period of absence, dealing with the changes in my life (and their have been a few), my first thought is to archive all my previous work, look at where I was going wrong, and see what I can do to make things better.

Looking back, I realise that I have a terrible “boom and bust” pattern of work, which has resulted in a long line of epic, incomplete projects. I tend to push the scope to far, force myself to work too hard, and then burn out, leaving for long periods of time, all before I attempt to restart the cycle.

In short, my cycle is as follows:

  1. Decide to Start A New Project
  2. Plan the Scope Too Wide
  3. Work Myself Too Hard
  4. Burn Myself Out
  5. Abandon My Project
  6. Re-Evaluate and Repeat

6d35d2f831001e67820b92803928a8b0Although I am aware of this cycle, I have never actually tried to focus on looking on the flaws in this cycle, and seeing how it affects my working patterns. By trying to put this into a website article, I can hopefully help process my thinking better, and realise ways in which I can start to break this cycle to become more productive, improving both my workload and my health, physically and mentally.

This cycle is a common cycle for many people, and tackling it will hopefully help myself and others recognise the pattern and be able to nip it in the bud before it takes root. It is all too easy to accept things as being outside of your control – and sometimes, they are – but only by looking at it can you be certain.

Study9Even then, the key is to look at what IS under your control, and change those factors accordingly. This is a type of thinking that is important for games designers and games players alike. Nobody ever won a game of chess by giving up because they couldn’t move their Rook on the first turn. Instead, they asked themselves if moving their Rook was important to their strategy, and if so, what would it take to allow them to move their Rook.

As such, over the next few weeks, I will go over my cycle step by step, discussing WHY I tend to take such steps, what the flaws with each step are, and what can be improved about each step. This is not a cycle for success – but it IS a cycle of good intentions, and hopefully by critically examining those intentions, a far better system can be created.

Next week, I will be looking at the first step – Deciding to Start a New Project.

Until then, Stay AWESOME!