Recently I’ve been struggling with giving Nikolai instructions around the house. On one hand, he’s a bright guy and can usually pick up things like “hey Nik go upstairs and grab the heating pad next to mom’s side of the bed” without any problems. On the other hand…he struggles a bit when the instructions start getting modular. “Hey Nik, go ahead and clean out your room by putting all the toys in their crates and then pick up your garbage, and then once you’re done you should be good to put the laundry in the hamper and feed Sting.” He tries hard, but I’m relatively sure I’d forget that even faster than him.
I’ve also found myself trying to follow these vague mental outlines I set up for my own schedule and it usually flops onto my face like an old, angry Durian fruit. I’ve been investigating myself and my methods and I’ve found that just writing up a quick instructional is a huge focusing tool and it’s like a 20 second project. Want to get the downstairs clean? Numbered list:
- Dog Toys
- The toys that were dragged downstairs while I was picking up dog toys
- The dog toys that were dragged out while I was picking up human toys
You get the idea – just structure your next hour or something and things seem to get done a lot faster than they normally would. While writing up a brief checklist recently I thought of that hilarious writing exercise we all do as kids where someone says ‘write out instructions for an alien who’s never been to earth but who has a translator to explain the English words’ – anybody remember that? The skits were hilarious,
“put your shoes on and then cross the strings, fold one side over the other and make a loop” *person places shoe on top of his foot, winds up the laces like a madhouse*
I’ve noticed this helping my communication skills with some of my peers as well – I work in a technical environment and sometimes I get questions from people who might go outside or something during their off-time. Sometimes I accidentally jump into rocket science explanations and let them stare at me for a while until they just pull up google and say “okay thanks, one more time but real slow.” Getting your brain to break tasks into micro-transactions is like my goal post from a while back but in a micro-scale – apparently I’m really bad at translating my advice from different scales until months later.
Anyone who finds themselves running out of time should give it a shot – next time you look a project in the eye, spend 60 seconds on a rough-but-concise outline and follow it. No really follow it, you don’t get to stray from instructions just because they’re yours! You might just find that investing 45 seconds before starting saves you a bunch of time later, and you can whip up that chocolate cake you’ve been craving.