Slow-Motion Multitasking


Earlier this year, I was listening to a podcast series by Tim Harford titled Cautionary Tales. While I’ll highly recommend the series, the episode that prompted me to think about writing this article was that of a TED talk he had done. The TED talk is titled “A powerful way to unleash your natural creativity”, and I’d highly recommend giving it a watch/listen over here.

The talk speaks about how some of the innovators like Einstein, Darwin, Twyla Therp and Michael Crinchton would have a lot of projects they’d be working on and how it allowed them to use their creativity to their best ability. Tim makes the argument not to be continually working on all of your projects but instead switching between projects as you start feeling burned out on a particular one. The vital part of this is to leave the project in such a state that it’s easy to pick up again at a later stage. I’m a little vague on the details now, but the metaphor that stuck with me was to have a box for each project wherein you’d organise everything. Keeping a project boxed up nicely then makes it easier to put one project down and pick up another one when you feel the need arises.

Lots of boxes

Since the year started, I’ve taken on a few projects already. Some of them are related to my work, and some are things I do for my enjoyment. Some of these I’ve completed and some are still in flux, but I’m already dreading coming back to one or two of these because I know I hadn’t bundled everything into a box. Here are some of the projects I can think of including its current status:

  • Game-dev framework: RogueDOTS (shelved)
  • Ludum Dare 46 (completed)
  • Talk: A programmer’s introduction to music theory (completed)
  • Design: Sim Race South Africa 2020.1 liveries (completed)
  • Open source app contribution: Second Monitor netcode (current)
  • Blog restructure (current)
  • Monthly blog (current)

Writing this list has made it immediately apparent to me that I’ve been slightly naughty. Considering the last three items as current projects and I run the risk losing context if I don’t round off what I’ve wanted to do on all well enough. I had planned for this weekend to do two things: write my blog post and designing new liveries for the 2020.2 season at Sim Race South Africa. It was as I was getting ready to write this post that I realised it sort of goes hand-in-hand with some further blog restructure work I’ve been planning on doing. So before I started with this post I’ve been doing some cleanup on the other pressing items I’ve had like adding content for my about page and I changed the top hide the atrocity that is all the categories I have on the site.

Shelves for boxes

The main blogging changes I’ve made was the inclusion of a Projects space where I’ll have some structured way of capturing project-related information to go easily pick up a shelved project in the future. It’s not going to be for tracking purposes, but rather a central repository for me so that I don’t have to keep all this information in my head. It’ll also provide me with a little space where I could include a little dev-log to jot down some thoughts I have, and they will most likely be quite minimalist because the most crucial consideration is that it shouldn’t be a drag for me to create these updates.

I’m still debating how much detail there will be, but looking at the list above I’m feeling anything more than just a title will already be valuable to me. For projects where it makes sense, I’ll include links to the public resources I’m using. I’ll also try to include some pictures/screenshots of whatever it is I’m doing so that there’s some level of visibility to those on the outside, but more than that I hope that it can inspire others to find a way for them to organise their projects better.

Year after year, we make promises to ourself to do more and be better, but we rarely keep track of it, and it can be a perfect motivator to have something to reflect on. In the years to come, this will be the tool I’ll use for these purposes, and I hope it’ll give me a good feeling of validation having a place to see just what I’ve managed to do in the past.