Shrinking The Change: Rekindling My Progress Towards A 2023 Release Date
Better Bits 2022 Progress Recap
It is cliché with many year-end recaps, but where did the year go? Only yesterday, the observations I diligently translated to sticky notes began to suggest the shape of a book. It has been a blur of writing, rewriting, pressure testing with a June speaking series, and then re-rewriting. During that time, some of those same sticky notes lost their grip and fell due to old age.
Better Bits currently sits at around 46,000 words, which is not shabby for technical non-fiction (at least from what I understand). That's on top of 26,000 words published for Net API Notes, 4200 promoting Better Bits, and more than 6600 on my website. However, after printing and proofing the latest draft of the book, I still have more work to do. And therein lies the challenge.
The last quarter's productivity has been a slog. I wrote for much of the year in the mornings - after the kids were off to school, but before I started Work™-work. It was the part of the day when I had the most energy to do the challenging synthesis or difficult editing. Some people, like Cory Doctorow, are masters of the context switch, writing entire novels in noisy airport lounges between flights. Others still have the mental vigor to write late at night, well after they put their day's affairs to bed. Despite my best efforts with my writing over the years, I only seem to do my best hermetically sealed during the narrow window after morning caffeine.
When the daily Work™-work standup was scheduled at 8:45 am this September, I suspected there would be a problem but hoped I'd adapt. It is the end of the year, and that still hasn't happened. There's something about once I'm into the workday, I have a hard time extracting and compartmentalizing what's happening in my inbox from the kind of deep, sustained focus I prefer for writing. Said another way, once I'm in Work™-work, it is hard for me to change gears.
I've been mulling over different possible solutions. The simplest is to get up earlier (which seems unlikely). Another idea is to hope I can be more disciplined and give writing at night another go. The most plausible solution, however, is to apply one of the essential techniques I cover in the book: shrinking the change.
I first came across the 'shrink the change' concept in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. In short, the bigger the change, the more proportional the push-back. Therefore, change is more likely to occur when made smaller and less threatening. Make the change small enough that the person asked to perform it can't help but score a victory.
This is the same theory behind some forms of interval training. It can be challenging for busy people to carve out hours to run to the gym, do a complete set on the stations, etc. Interval training combines short, high-intensity bursts of activity followed by brief recovery periods, repeated - many of which can be done at home with minimal equipment requirements. If you browse Pinterest, you can find all sorts of example infographics from experts like Neila Rey. Interval training takes a big ask - the hours and specialized location of working out - and shrinks the requirements.
Once the workday starts, I will probably not happen upon a multi-hour block - certainly not consistently. But what if I shrink what I think I need? Instead of multiple hours, what could I do with twenty minutes? And if not twenty minutes, what if I shrunk the change I "need" to a paragraph? Surely, even on the busiest days, I could find time to edit a section between meetings? A paragraph a day may not sound like much. However five paragraphs is better than another week disappearing because an afternoon of free time never materialized.
The need for a manual on how software practitioners change their organizations for the better has only grown. The more I work with organizations, the more I see how a completed Better Bits can scale in a way that I, individually, never could. By utilizing the concepts I cover in the book, I should get myself unstuck and back on a path to release in 2023.
As you read about my change, did it spark any ideas about what you'd like to change in the coming year? What is it? And, perhaps more importantly, is it possible to shrink that change so that it is more approachable, manageable, or exciting? I'd love to hear more about how you're approaching it.
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