Week 05/2022: Getting unstuck

Week of 31 January 2022

Sunrise over the beach in tones of orange and black
Saturday sunrise

Getting unstuck

What did I want to do this week?

My actions for this week were to

  • Finalise my weekly review routine and do it on Sunday morning
  • Identify actions for focus areas I want to work on in February
  • Keep building my “deep work” handbook

How did I go?

I feel a bit stuck. Yes, that’s right. It’s the first week of February and I’m feeling stuck before I’ve even got started with my year!

I was thinking about what I wrote last week about making time and space for the “big rocks” and I realised one reason for having so much trouble doing this was because I was struggling to identify what the big rocks were: the most important things I needed to do to make progress towards my goals. It’s pointless to schedule time to “work on x” if you don’t know what you’re actually supposed to be doing.

Consider the difference between a task and a project. There are probably hundreds of posts and articles on this subject that can explain it better than I can, but the point is, you can’t “do” a project. You do a task, and a task needs to be a discrete action that you can complete and know you’ve completed it.

“Work on video project” is not a task. “Import January’s videos into the video project” is a task. As is “insert clips from January’s videos into the movie”.

“Work on my writing project” is not a task. “Write 500 words” is a task. “Write the opening paragraph of chapter 1” is a task.

Even “complete the xxx course” isn’t a task. “Listen to one lesson” is a task. “Do exercise 1” is a task. “Make notes from workshop 3” is a task.

I can see where I was going wrong. My 22 for 2022 list is made up of a bunch of projects. There’s a couple of tasks thrown in, but it’s mostly projects. (So much for saying last year I had too many complicated things in there and I was going to make a list of things I could check off easily . . .)

I went back to my list of timings I made in week 3, where I’d tentatively allocated projects to the months I thought I’d work on them, but I still hadn’t identified the actions I needed to actually do to complete these projects and I had no idea where to start.

Well, some of them are obvious, right? To do an online course you  watch one video at a time, do any activities associated with that and move onto the next lesson.

But they aren’t the ones I was stuck on . . . though in a way they were, because I was never making time to do them, so I was ending up with a course backlog.

As I was wondering what to do with all these things, I remembered an idea from the Priority Samurai course (thing 11). This was that you don’t have to know every single action you need to do to complete a project. You just need to know the next one.

Extrapolating that, I don’t need to know when I’m going to do everything either. I just know what I’m going to do this week. And then, what I’m going to do today.

So what do I need to do?

  • Break the projects up into tasks so I know exactly what I have to do (not necessarily all the tasks but the next things I need to do to make progress)
  • Allocate some time to do these tasks

How do I do that? Weekly review/schedule and daily plan.

I hate making daily plans! I never stick to them.

I’ve written about this before. Schedules are great. For buses, doctors’ offices and schools. For me, not so good. I plan the day and then when the time comes to work on something, I do exactly what I want to do. Or rather, I do what I feel like doing, which usually isn’t the same as what I want to do, or what might be the best use of my time if I want to make progress on a project. (Did you see how I didn’t use the word “should” there?)

But the result of this is that I’m going around in circles, and I’m not getting anything finished. I have a backlog of courses, unfinished blog posts and writing projects, and I feel like I’m wasting my life on things that don’t matter. The whole idea of having focus areas is that I spend most of my time doing the things that fit into these areas. The big rocks. The things that do matter.

To overcome this, I pulled out the projects I want to work on in February from my year plan. There are five:

  • Mindspot (thing 1)
  • My TAFE course (thing 8)
  • My “deep work” handbook (thing 12)
  • Sorting out my Todoist (thing 13)
  • Writing courses (things 17 and 18)
  • Cosmic Calibration (thing 22)

Okay, that’s six but who’s counting?

I set up a table in Evernote, which has become my tool of choice. I called it February Plan. Each project has its own column and there’s a row for each week of the month. With this I could start to break down the projects into tasks and assign them to the weeks I want to work on them.

It looks like this

A table listing the activities I want to complete in the first weeks of February unde the headings Mindspot, Deep Work, Todoist, TasTAFE, Cosmic Calibration, Writing, Other
My February plan

I am absolutely, 100 per cent, certain that I have overestimated by a long shot how much I can get done in a week, but this is just an experiment to see if it helps.

The idea is that I’ll do a weekly review on Sunday mornings using the scaled back process that I put into my “deep work” handbook (thing 12), assess whether I did what I wanted to do and if not, why not. After that, I’ll make next week’s plan for working on my big rocks that takes into account what I learned the previous week. Things like whether I expected too much, whether I wasted too much time on something I could have done in less time, whether I didn’t leave enough time for unexpected events (or left too much time unscheduled) and so on.

The idea with the weekly plan is that it will give me a rough idea of what project I’ll be working on at any given time, but (this is important), it’s just a guide.

I’ll refine that with a daily plan where I’ll work out what actual tasks I want to work on that day and (very tentatively) allocate them to timeblocks, without trying to set too much in concrete. The aim is to have some structure that will make sure I get things done but not so much structure that I feel tied down and I rebel because I hate daily plans so much.

It’s a fine balance and I reckon it will take a bit of tweaking to get right.

Did I do what I set out to do this week?

Having done all of this, written out the steps of my weekly review and attempted to do it, I can say that yes, I completed the three things I set out to do this week.


Last week I said I’d set up some alarms on my phone to remind me to do the controlled breathing exercise, and that seems to be working well. I also tacked it on to the end of my morning meditation session so I’m doing it twice a day now.

I haven’t had as much luck slotting in the jaw stretch exercises but I remembered to do it on five days so I’m happy with that

22 for 2022 update

I made progress on a few things this week. I worked through some more material from Mindspot (thing 1) and did the preparation for for my TAFE course that starts next week (thing 8). I worked through some of the Content Writing course (thing 18) and, along a similar line, attended a webinar with the Australian Writers’ Centre, which provided some useful and inspirational ideas.

I’ve been working on the “deep work” handbook (thing 12) and gradually clearing out my Todoist (thing 13) over the week. And I’ve been reading (thing 21).

22 for 2022 summary

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things I worked on this week: 6: (1, 8, 12, 13, 18, 21)
  • Things completed to date: 2 (10, 11)
  • Things in progress: 7 (1, 8, 12, 13, 18, 21, 22)
  • Things not started: 13 (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20)

Weekly review

What do I want to do next week?

  • Build the jaw stretches into my daily routine
  • Follow up on a potential writers group
  • Work out how to track my work tasks (Todoist or some other way)
  • Make a list of the Mindspot activities I can turn into habits or regular tasks and find somewhere to slot them into my week

What I’m reading this week

  • Clapperland by Terry Aulich
  • What Really Happened in Wuhan by Sharri Markson

Habit tracker

  • Days I went for a walk in the morning (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 0): 0. I was only at work one day this week
  • Days I did controlled breathing (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did jaw stretches (Goal = 0): 5
  • Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 0): 0.  I was only at work one day this week
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 4
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 5): 5
  • Days I shut my computer down before 9.30 (Goal = 6): 6
  • Weekly review at work: I wasn’t at work this week
  • Weekly review at home: I did it. Sort of.


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