Like you, I’m always looking for ways to make recurring tasks easier. I’ve recently hit upon a strategy that’s been working great for me, and I hope you find it useful too.
Tiny difficulties add up
About a month ago, I was struggling to maintain my twice-weekly blog posting schedule (as you may have noticed). For some reason, writing had gradually become quite stressful. I took a few weeks off to recharge, but it had little effect. I was stuck.
I eventually realized that my writer’s block stemmed from a growing list of unresolved questions about mechanical issues. Stuff like this:
- When should I write out numbers?
- Should I capitalize section headings?
- Am I introducing block quotes correctly?
I realize how dumb these questions sound, but they were really bothering me. Each issue was trivial, but taken together, they were causing significant friction.
The things-to-remember document
In a moment of clarity, I typed out all the unresolved questions that were nipping at my heels. It took about an hour to find and add the answers. I titled the document “Things to Remember When Writing a Blog Post.” Clever, huh?
The concept is simple: for any challenging task you must complete regularly, identify recurring difficulties and their solutions. Even though you’ll arrive at many of these solutions on your own each time you complete the task, you can reduce mental friction by having them all in one place and ready for your perusal. Let’s call it a things-to-remember document.
Creating this document was cathartic, but it’s also proven useful on a day-to-day basis. I’ve internalized many of the answers, and I can look up the ones I don’t have memorized while adding new questions and answers when appropriate. I believe this idea holds promise for moderately difficult recurring tasks, like doing your taxes or grading a stack of tests. If you’d like to try it out yourself, here’s my blogging-specific things-to-remember document (PDF) for reference.
This document has really greased the skids for me, writing-wise. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!