We recently decided to stop diving in too deep on tasks right away. Instead, we’re going for four hour chunks upfront. We start work on a task and then, after the first four hours, come up for air.
Why? When you’ve done nothing, you don’t have a realistic view of what it’s going to take. But when you’ve spent days or weeks on something, you can get too invested. It becomes hard to change, admit you’re wrong, or that what you’ve been doing isn’t actually worth more effort.
Four hours lets you get your toes wet. Then you ask questions. Is this worth continuing? Are you on the right track? Is there a way to judo this? Should you bring in another set of eyes?
If it’s all good, then keep on going. But a lot of times this forced break can reveal hidden solutions and/or lead you in a different direction.
It’s easy to get excited about solving the problem at hand, even if the solution is complex. But then you can wind up spending way too long on a problem that’s just not worth it. Sometimes you’re better off restating the problem or even tabling it and moving on to something more important. The four-hour upfront technique prevents you from going too far in the wrong direction.