Photo by Craig McKay on Unsplash

Exploring vs. Planning vs. Doing

Sometimes I start a work session with high energy but without knowing which task I’ll pick, so I prioritize my backlog for 15 minutes.

But when I’m done prioritizing my energy levels have dropped, as if going into “planning mode” for 15 minutes had impacted other things my brain could do. It takes me 30 minutes to reset, an excruciating waste of time.

Does it sound familiar?

Exploring, planning, and doing are different mental modes, and require different settings. If you start a session in one mode, it’ll be hard to shift gears later on.

You can avoid this costly context switching by dedicating time slots to mental modes. For planning, book a weekly 60-minute session to prioritize your backlog. That way, your “doing” time is protected.

As for exploration — looking for new topics and content — do it in its own time, and after all other modes. It involves social media and chances are you’ll end up in a rabbit hole of notifications.

If you need to mix “doing” and “exploring” within a single two-hour session, start with “doing” for the first hour, and only after go into “exploring”, and never the other way around.

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Senior Engineering Manager, with a passion for algorithms, infrastructure, and organizational culture.

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