Optimize for Tiny Victories

I was talking with Dawn C. Hayes, a maker and occasional adjunct professor in NYC earlier this week. We were talking about things like motivation and things like biting off more than we can chew when it comes to large projects, as well as estimating how long something will take. She mentioned that it’s important to optimize for quick early successes, like getting a student to have an “I got the LED to light up” moment. With today’s short attention span internet, you can see that’s totally true. Every programming language has a “5 min quickstart” dedicated to giving you some sense of accomplishment quickly. But she also pointed out that after the LED Moment students (and everyone ever, says me) always underestimate how long stuff will take. It’s easy to describe a project in a few sentences but it might take months or a year to make it a reality.

This is my challenge as well, perhaps it’s yours, too. As we talked, I realized that I developed a technique for managing this without realizing it.

I optimize my workflow for lots of tiny victories.

For example, my son and I are working on 3D printing a quadcopter drone. I have no idea what I’m doing, I have no drone experience, and I’m mediocre with electronics. Not to mention I’m dealing with a 7 year old who wants to know why it hasn’t taken off yet, forgetting that we just had the idea a minute ago.

I’m mentally breaking it up in work sprints, little dependencies, but in order to stay motivated we’re making sure each sprint — whether it’s a day or an hour — is a victory as well as a sprint. What can we do to not just move the ball forward but also achieve something. Something small, to be clear. But something we can be excited about, something we can tell mommy about, something we can feel good about.

We’re attempting to make a freaking quadcopter and it’s very possible we won’t succeed. But we soldered two wires together today, and the muiltimeter needle moved, so we’re pretty excited about that tiny victory and that’s how we’re telling the story. It will keep us going until tomorrow’s sprint.

Do you do this too? Tell me in the comments.

Originally published at www.hanselman.com.

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