I realize that mathematicians have a different definition of ‘refactoring’, but for software engineering types like me it means returning to old code in order to improve it. I was talking with Roxy the other day about a strategy I’ve been employing lately to get my ‘to do’ list under control.
The idea of refactoring came up because I’m always tweaking my process. I’m constantly looking for ways to do my work better, whether it’s projects I get paid for or the ones I don’t. Like a lot of people, I’ve got a ‘to do’ list that never seems to get shorter, though I’m constantly trying to cross items off of it. A typical scenario is that I have some time open in my schedule and instead of seeing beers and additional naps in my future, I start thinking about all the projects and chores I could complete. Usually, that means my list gets longer, instead of shorter. Still it’s exciting, at first, to imagine the feeling that I’ll have when I’ve completed some of those tasks.
Maybe you already know how this story goes. I start the day enthusiastic and end up tired and, if it’s a good day, I got a couple of things crossed off my list. If it’s a bad day, I’ve been over-confident about what I can do and end up feeling frustrated and crappy about myself. I always seem to underestimate how much energy the projects will take, especially as I get older. I’m still calculating my expected output based on how much I could do in my 30s, apparently. And sometimes what slows me down is not doing good project management, in other words, when I forget how much time it can take to make a parts run to a home improvement store. And there are always those unexpected tasks that come up regularly in a family of 4 living in the suburbs.
So what’s a Type-A, somewhat OCD, workaholic gonna do? Refactor my process, of course. My latest strategy has been to take 2 or 3 items from my list and assign them to myself each day. I started on Monday and the strategy has been pretty successful. I select tasks that give me a high rate of success. I’m not trying to martyr myself to my To Dos, I want to be successful. So there’s usually one task that will take some creative effort, one that’s a quick hit and if there’s a third, it’s something manual. At least that’s the strategy so far, don’t count on me not to refactor it again in the coming weeks.
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