Tee ’em up

Golf provides another metaphor for getting things done. Take #2 on “crankable widgets”.

Growing up in Las Vegas, our favorite place to hit golf balls was Desert Pines. It was 30 minutes away, but it boasted a double decker driving range and automatic tees. After each hit, the tee dropped into the floor and re-emerged with a new ball. You could hit ball after ball without the pesky work of bending down to tee them. You could keep your stance and stay in the zone.

Imagine “teeing up” your tasks. Thoroughly prepare each task so the actual work of doing it is a simple, fluid stroke. Poorly prepared tasks require you to lean down. Well-prepared tasks are ripe for the hitting.

Bad: “Do taxes”
Good: “Find W2 forms and receipts in folder. Call accountant to setup appointment.”

Bad: “Christmas shopping”
Good: “Spend 10 minutes with pen and paper brainstorming what David might like for Christmas. Ask Mom for suggestions. Wait a few days to think about it. Order it online.”

Can you see how using concrete words makes each task easier to grasp? These changes may seem obvious to you, and perhaps you won’t need this much description. Be as descriptive as you personally need. But you’ll be surprised how fluidly you’ll move from task to task if you’ve taken the time to describe each task specifically and concretely.

4 thoughts on “Tee ’em up”

  1. Somehow you manged to come up with a golf analogy that was new; my dad hasn’t had a new one since I was eight. I’ve had some new things to figure out at work this week at work & when things are technical I find myself overwhelmed. Jimmy’s right, your examples are really good. I just wanted to say thanks – you are the Jon Udell of your peer group; this post has has been on my mind all week & I feel like it made a big difference.
  2. Jimmy: Estimating how long it will take to complete a project is a skill I’d like to learn. I’ve always found it perplexing. Joel Spolsky talks about breaking down projects into 4 hour or 1 day blocks, at most, but I find even that difficult for large projects.
  3. I find that whenever I’m in a lull and just stare at a task for too long, it’s usually because I’ve described the task in too general of terms. Your examples are really good.

    Breaking down your tasks into bite-sized chunks also helps in estimating how much time you’ll need to get things done.

    Tee’ing up your tasks like you’ve outlined seems pretty simple and obvious, but I’m amazed at how many times I find myself stumped by a problem that is overcome just by describing what I need to do in more detail. I’m sure I’m not the only one that suffers from this. I think developers and project managers all over the world would benefit from this advice.

    Great follow up on your last post! Keep these coming.

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