Mind Like Water

The paradox of choice and personal projects

I read an article recently that quoted president Obama as saying he only wears blue or grey suits to minimize the choices he has to make getting dressed every day.

He's actually on to something: studies have shown that every small decision we make throughout the day takes a piece of our willpower — in essence, our willpower is finite and we don't want to waste it on silly decisions.

I have decided I'm going to try this approach. I've been having a hard time making significant progress on my personal projects lately, and I think that's because every single decision is up to me. I don't have anyone to call the shots and tell me what to do, therefore everything is on the table.

Here's the goal: take that decision making process out of my working time. I'm generally better able to determine what the next thing I should do is when I'm looking at the app, or talking to someone about it, or when something breaks. Generally it's so obvious, if I only had a keyboard in front of me I could knock out that task in no time flat.

I'm going to start keeping a list of these "next action" type tasks. When it comes time to work, I grab the one that pulls me the most, and DO IT. Ideally, the task will be less than an hour, so I can dip into the code, complete the task, and then go do something else for a while.

We'll see how it goes.