It’s no secret that one of the hardest part of any design project, or for that matter any project, is “Getting Started”. Design projects such as software UX design require that we utilise both our analytical thinking skills as well as our creative thinking skills.

Analytical thinking skills to analyse the myriads of inputs we have from users of our software, analytics about the software itself, research of similar and complimentary tech and several of our own life experiences. We then need to organise these inputs, make sense of these inputs in the context of our product and prioritise these inputs and apply our creative thinking skills to synthesise these inputs in a way that is meaningful to our software product and it’s users.

In short, a lot of thinking, and our brain that does this thinking has the highest rate of energy consumption in comparison to any other organ in our body, yes more energy consumption than the heart as well. So really the problem of getting started is not an individual problem, it’s a human physiological problem as it requires channelising a lot of our energy towards guess what, getting started!

So, let’s not be too hard on ourselves and accept that it’s down to our own design, perhaps it would be fixed in a future version as the human physiology evolves. But till then we need to find ways to get started and then stick to it! Let’s call them patches. And two patches that have helped me are:

  1. Focus by using technology to beat technology
  2. A new understanding of the motivation loop

 

Use technology to beat technology — Increase productivity!

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Again it’s no surprise to create anything we need to focus and to that end, I’ve set times of the day that I call my thinking time. I believe I am a morning person, at least these days I am, and I’ve set aside 8.30am to 12pm as my thinking time.

During this time slot, I don’t schedule any meetings unless it’s something that’s both important and urgent and I prefer to work from my home office where I’m not disturbed. I’ve switched off notifications on a lot of apps (even then a lot sneak past me) and I put my phone on the Do Not Disturb mode during this time so that I’m not affected by the constant cravings to react to a text message, WhatsApp, Skype, LinkedIn, SalesForce or several other notifications that keep coming at me.

During this time I make an effort to not look at my phone either so that the attraction of the notification badge on top of an app icon doesn’t draw me to the app. You may wonder what if someone needs me in case of an emergency? To which my response, that I learned from my business partner, is that during an emergency that someone will call me rather than message or email me.

So this is how I’ve tried to tame my mobile phone, now for the laptop. The Do Not Disturb mode that Apple added to Mac OS a while back has come in very handy to suppress the notifications. More recently, I discovered Freedom, an app that in addition to blocking apps and websites on my mobile, has helped me block news and social media websites on my laptop during my thinking time. It has also helped me disable emails during this time so that the notification badge on the Mail app icon doesn’t draw me to it and this has been a big help.

 

Motivation loop and its application

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Thinking of motivation a little differently helps my own motivation to focus and get started. Reading Mark Manson, I learned that our traditional understanding of the motivation loop, inspiration followed by motivation followed by action, is wrong. Instead, we need to think of the motivation loop as — action followed by inspiration, followed by motivation, followed by more action and so on.

To apply this new understanding of the motivation loop I’ve adjusted my morning routine to start with action, in the form of a workout at the gym or a run first thing in the morning, followed by meditation followed by a shower and then action on my emails and planning my to do’s (the easy stuff) for the first half hour of my workday. All this helps with the inspiration and motivation leading up to my thinking time at 8.30am when I can start actioning my important & urgent, or important not urgent to-dos.

Finally, I’d like to say that like most things useful in life, Getting Started is a process and not an event, you have to constantly work at it.

I hope this blog helps you in your process of getting started and in case you have any tips for me I would love to hear from you!

 

Tariq Husain