I took some time off around Christmas and the New Year, and decided to get a bunch of things done on my "Someday Maybe" list. Most of the items were of the "clean up" and "fix it" variety, and some of them were things I'd been putting off for a long time. For example, I rented a 3 cubic yard dumpster for a day and did a massive clean up of our garage (filled the dumpster to the rim and brought a van full of stuff to the Salvation Army) and now we can park in the garage again!
I noticed that checking each of these old projects off my list felt really good -- like a real, satisfying accomplishment. In other words, they really felt "Done."
When I compare cleaning my garage to a lot of the things I do at work, the feeling is a bit different. You see, at work, a significant part of my job is managing long-term, ongoing relationships with other companies and, even though there are lots of deliverables on the way, they don't feel as "Done" as cleaning the garage or filling a dumpster.
When I think about why, some of it is just the "nature of the beast," I suppose. But I think another aspect is that I tend to think of my job as an ongoing stream of "stuff" - and I don't regularly break it down into smaller, more deliberately-defined subprojects. The result? At the end of the week, I see a lot of little check marks, but they aren't nearly as satisfying as checking off a whole project as "Done."
That realization came to me while re-reading David Allen's "Getting Things Done" (GTD) the other day. Part of David's GTD philosophy is to break big tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, then identify small steps (Next Actions) that you can pick off one at a time.
As we move into 2008, I am re-visiting my approach to GTD, trying to re-establish better habits. One of the changes I'm going to make is to be more deliberate about defining my projects more discretely (and doing more thorough Weekly Reviews to keep on top of them).
And if you haven't read Getting Things Done in a while, I highly recommend it. In the realm of personal productivity, it's a great way to spotlight things that aren't working as well as they should.