Maintaining Systems

I’ve been catching up on the Whims That Work podcast amongst my other higher-priority podcast listening, sort of cherry-picking episodes and listening to Drew and Joe discuss things on 2x speed.1 On my ride home from work today, I picked up a few ideas from the episode titled Do the Work at the Beginning.

Deal With the Annoyances

Early in the podcast, Drew pointed out that he was overlooking a lot of little annoyances that could eventually add up to a bigger problem, and that’s an interesting idea. I can relate to this and I’m thinking it’s worth making a list in Ulysses where I can track “problems” and small annoyances with my systems and workflows so that I can batch the work. I’m currently pretty happy with my technology tools; my work MacBook feels especially productive, and yet for personal tools, I’ve been mainly working off my iPhone with a Bluetooth keyboard here and there2. I’m sure there are things that annoy me that I should take the time to fix, but I can’t remember them now… that’s where the list would be helpful.

Schedule Time for Maintenance

After Drew discussed his problems with his Mac, Joe mentioned that he actually schedules regular time on Fridays to evaluate his systems/workflows and maintain them. I really liked this idea because I have various disorganized systems in place for my work and productivity, and although I’m not a freelancer like these guys, I still want to have a useful system in place. I doubt I could really schedule 2-3 hours on a Friday afternoon3, but I might have some success in fitting in a 1-2 hour slot on some day of the week, especially on days that are a bit slower. This might even work on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening.

Aiming for Sustainability

The concept of regular maintenance of systems reminds me of a mini-episode from the Hurry Slowly podcast, where Jocelyn K Glei mentioned her struggle to maintain each project she starts. I sort of got the message that one should “count the cost” associated with keeping up a new venture (in this case, her podcast) before starting in with high hopes and big ambitions. It’s a good reminder to deliberately set the bar lower than you might think so you can keep up a maintainable pace. I’m realizing that this kind of thing applies to my blog; in trying to follow Austin Kleon’s recommendation to blog every day, I’ve signed up for a lot, even if I’m just writing stuff down for my own benefit. But it has to be sustainable – I’m writing this at 10:30pm which is normally after I go to bed. And sometimes I ask myself, “is this worth it?”.

We’ll see.

  1. Somehow speeding up this podcast is the best way to get through them. Thanks to Castro, I’m able to set specific podcasts to play faster and some to play normal speed.
  2. I’m seriously considering picking up an iPad sometime soon… but I want to wait and see what Apple announces this fall.
  3. Like, this Friday afternoon I spent in meetings and then helping my team prepare for a deployment to a client database.