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Why Doing Research and Collecting Information Can Unstick Your Tasks

While installing a Drupal module on my site to enable blogging from an external editor (part of my experiment in writing shorter, more frequent posts) I again realized that doing research (collecting information and getting your head around a project/problem) is a crucial prerequisite to making progress on projects. Not doing it (or, importantly, not realizing you need to do it) is one reason we procrastinate and don't seem to make progress on a task. This is because it's not broken down enough to be possible. So consider collecting information as a possible first step. Actually, my first step is often to create an outline for the project (related: Simple project planning for individuals: A round-up), with the first task being - you guessed it - "Research __."

In this case, I had to learn how to install the module, which was a research task - "Search for module install how-tos". What was wonderful is when I sat down to do the next step - configure the client and try a test post - I found sitting right in front of my all the information I needed. Boom - off to the races!

How about you: How do you kick off a project? When have you been surprised by information your past self collected (see Did, Doing, To Do: Why your Past, Present, and Future Selves Need to Chat)?

Reader Comments (2)

As Rumsfeld used to say, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

I find that I can separate the tasks I'm procrastinating into two big categories: tasks I know are going to be unpleasant, and tasks I suspect are much bigger than they appear. The unpleasant must be confronted. But a first step toward tackling the submerged iceberg tasks is to do just what you recommend: a little bit of research. Sometimes my intuition proves right, but often I'm wrong: it's not such a big task after all, but the first step has a passive or active obstacle attached to it that research can resolve.

What's an external editor?

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan Owen

I love the idea of a known vs. known 2x2, but I admit to having trouble wrapping (warping) my head around it. Still fuzzy from the stress, I'll claim. I generally fear universally the unknown - it's one of my limitations, wearing the black hat most of the time. That's why the research step helps, yes.

By external editor I mean a WYSIWYG program for creating blog posts, rather than hand-coding HTML within Drupal's built-in text box.

Here's the quote: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

And a little essay: http://stevespeeves.wordpress.com/2006/11/09/donald-rumsfeld-and-the-infamous-known-knowns-known-unknowns-and-unknown-unknowns-quotation/


December 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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