My practice, like many, consists of multiple unrelated projects I am trying to make progress on simultaneously. Also like many, I am only able to make time for my practice inconsistently in between paying work, which can be derailing. In the past when I sat down for “practice time” I would often find myself stuck asking “what do I do now?” After a couple of years of stumbling I arrived at a simple technique that I have found effective. It boils down to a little ritual at the end of every work session. Before wrapping up a work session on a project I do two things:
- Record what needs to be done next for that project
- Move it to the bottom of my list of projects
The effect of 1. is that I can build continuity between work sessions. The way I do it varies from project to project, some will have todo lists, some will have full blown kanban boards, and some will have rough unstructured notes. It depends on the project, its complexity, and its needs. The important thing is that I can answer the question “what needs to be done next?” when I come back to the project.
The effect of 2. is that my projects are effectively sorted by least recently worked on. Projects that are seeing work regularly “sink” to the bottom of the list and projects that haven’t seen work in a while “float” to the top. It makes it easy to see if things are falling through the cracks and helps me avoid fixating on a single project to the detriment of others.
Together they help quickly answer the question “what do I do now?” whenever I have practice time. Which project should I work on? The one at the top of the list, ideally, or at the very least one near the top. Once I’ve picked a project, what do I do next? Check the todo list, the kanban board, or the notes you left, and hit the ground running.
I use Notion to manage my practice these days, so I track every project in its own page. Project pages can have a lot of information — anything I need for the project, really, including references, notes, subpages, local todo lists, etc — but every page clearly spells out what I need to do when I next come back to the project. I also track the “Last Worked On” date as a property, so I can use Notion’s sorted views to avoid manually reordering my projects. I update both at the end of a work session for the benefit of my future self. It is very satisfying to watch a project sink to the bottom of the list after working on it.
And that’s it! I imagine there are enhancements and embellishments that could be done, and I’m sure this could be reproduced in other personal knowledge systems or even pen and paper.