Re: Procedures for a young writer

Subject: Re: Procedures for a young writer
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 12:21:57 -0500

A.H. wrote:

My question is, Does anyone have suggestions, books,
articles, (anything) that can help me learn to focus
on getting something done without quickly abandoning
it and moving on to something else?

Be the operating system. By that I mean think the way an operating system thinks. You have big CPU-pegging tasks; you have no-brainer I/O tasks; you have in-betwen tasks. If you do too much task-switching, you burn up a lot of cycles with memory swapping (putting one project away, getting out another to work on). If you do too little task-switching, the user (your boss) is going to keep pushing your buttons to find out what's taking so long and you're going to waste all your time answering those questions.

Here's how I try to strike a balance: I work on one major project at a time, starting at a starting point and ending at an ending point (such as sending a draft for review). While I'm doing that, I respond to simple requests (find this, print that, edit the other thing, answer an email) that don't require much thought or a lengthy interruption. If a request comes in for something that requires concentration, I schedule it for a later date (when I'm ready to put away the project I'm working on) unless it is a higher priority than my current project. In that case, I take the time needed to put away the project properly, so I can pick it up again later, and I handle the high-priority interrupt.

The standard advice from management types (who are a level removed from actually having to produce objects and can therefore wave their hands in a non-Euclidean space) is to prioritize all requests as A, B, or C and work only on the A's, going to the B's when and if you finish the A's, and ignoring the C's altogether. I've never found that a very good way to make the customers happy, myself.


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Procedures for a young writer: From: A.H.

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