Dear 43 Things Users,

10 years after introducing 43 Things to the world, we have decided we have met our last goal: completing the incredible experience that has been 43 Things. Please join us in giving one last cheer to all the folks who have shared their goals with the world, as well as all the people who have worked at The Robot Co-op to build this incredible website. We won a Webby Award, published a book, and brought happiness to a lot of people.

Starting today, 43 Things users can export their goals and entries from the site. Starting August 15, we will make the site “read only”. 43 Things users will still be able to view the site and export their content, but we won’t be taking any new content from users. We hope to leave the site up for folks to see and download their content until the end of the year. Ending on New Year’s Eve takes us full circle.

It has been a long ride (one of our original goals was to "build a company that lasts at least 2 years” - we beat that one!) While we wish the site could live on, it has suffered from a number of challenges - changes in how people use the site, the advertising industry, and how search engines view the site. We wish the outcome was different – but we’ve always been realistic about when our goals are met and when they aren't.

As of today, you will be able to download your goals and entries. See more about that on the FAQ page. Thanks for 10 great years of goal-setting and achieving.

- The Robots.

Export My Content

apteryx in Bloomington is doing 29 things including…

do one thing at a time

11 cheers


apteryx has written 2 entries about this goal

Methods that have worked, and lessons learned

I got motivated to “do one thing at a time” by that unpleasant feeling of scattered focus: of being pulled in lots of directions at once, trying to do them all at once, and getting nowhere on any of them. Maybe if I did one thing at a time, I would return to that pleasant and productive state of focus that I love so much.

Practically every time I sat down, I would find myself doing multiple things: reading stuff in a web browser, writing email, writing a program, writing a different program, etc., hopping between them every few seconds. This gets really unpleasant really fast, and of course it doesn’t get much work done.

Here are some things I did, to get myself working on one thing at a time. They all worked:

  • Close all the windows on my computer (or reboot!). Now open just one window, for the one thing I want to do. Ahhh, so much better.
  • Pair programming. The need to constantly coordinate with another person forces you to define one tiny task at a time, or you’ll get too far out of sync. Pair programming leads fairly effortlessly into that methodical, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race style of work. Two hares become one tortoise when they pair.
  • One-hour check-ins. I and a friend call each other once an hour. We spend a few minutes helping each other brainstorm for a tiny goal to complete by the next hour. I usually pick a goal that I can finish in 5 minutes. Sometimes 30 seconds. That short bit of focus, combined with the rule that I can guiltlessly goof off for the other 55 minutes, is usually enough to give me momentum to have a productive, focused hour.

Despite these successes, I am marking this goal Not Worth It.

I would not have chosen this goal if I naturally worked methodically and did things step by step. The above techniques really worked, but after a while, I found myself in an even more-frazzled state than before. I found myself unable to think, desperately needing some “down time” or “vege-out time”. This new frazzlement felt horrible, like some weird coma where my mind can no longer even control my thoughts, like my mind was eclipsed by this retarded, goal-churning idiot.

Lesson learned I am not a methodical person. Looking back on times when I was happily focused, I was working on “one thing”, but it also involved lots of hopping around. For example, I wrote programs by working simultaneously on many little pieces, adding little bits here and there, keeping many mental threads alive simultaneously. I also wrote papers and manuals (and a book) this way: not by chugging through a list systematically, but by having a phrase or sentence pop into mind, a vague idea, and writing the whole piece out of sequence, adding little bits here and there, occasionally getting inspired and blasting out a huge bunch of text. But not in sequence, and not in neat little work units.

My style is to work in an “organic” way: to weave many things together simultaneously so they form a whole. While I can usefully oppose it in short bursts, I think I’m much wiser to work all-out in my natural style and just accept the problems it creates (mostly due to its unpredictability). I had even worse problems with schedule and punctuality when I was being disciplined and organized than when I was working “organically”.

Enough thrashing, already!

Let’s see, I was just writing an email to someone who called me a week ago and who I haven’t called back, and needed a URL. So I got into Safari to find the web page. I noticed a monologue from an acting class lying out, and put it away in a folder. Oh, the web page. Then I thought, “Enough thrashing, already! I’ll post ‘do one thing at a time’ on 43things to commit to it.” So I searched for that, and found someone else’s entry, and added a comment. To do that, I needed to find another URL, on Amazon. Almost got derailed by weird books that Amazon is saying I should look at. Finished the comment. Oh, that email. I still haven’t found the first URL.

Ok, that’s it. My project for today is to take each small thing I do to completion without getting derailed by something else.

apteryx has gotten 11 cheers on this goal.


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