How to stay focussed across multiple projects

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Just when you are on a roll

So here I am cruising along, feeling completely on top of my projects: in the zone, oozing creativity or developing like crazy and then out of nowhere... BAM! Along comes another project that demands my time.

Generally it is safe to say this is a demand from an existing project or client. However sometimes this is an unforeseen situation like an idea exploding in my head, a family issue, perhaps falling ill or even worse than all of them: simply losing focus for no good reason!.

And then that's it. My mojo is zapped. A work lethargy kicks in. Old designs (a week old) look dumb, my code looks less fun and getting back into the groove can feel like an uphill struggle. The more I do it, the harder it seems. So what's the issue?

Could too much experience getting in the way?

When I started out as both a developer and designer everything was a means to an end. If I needed something designed or developed I would work tirelessly until I found a solution and would be able to pick up, manipulate and hack most projects together. In fact the pressure of deadlines made me learn fast.

Having been building sites and apps since the late 1990s I have accumulated a considerable reserve of experience. But is this working against me?

When I'm hacking nowadays I can often get distracted by the purity of code or the smallest design detail and have to work hard sometimes to pull myself out to see the bigger picture again.

However a trip to beach or a coffe shop and doing something completely different is often the answer.

This could just be age thing and when I am back in the zone, the best thing to do is switch all communications off, turn the music up and crack on. I also find throwing a board together in Trello is an enormous help to keep me on track.

The multi-tasking paradox

So my current thinking is that this is a problem with multi-tasking and simply having too much to do. With less to focus on things are simpler and with a clearer mind the tasks ahead seem easier.

This would seem simple to fix. Shut the outside world off for a bit and keep going. And sometimes it is.

Yet the annoying irony for me is that I also need multi-tasking to inspire me occassionally.

Sometimes the solutions I am desperately trying to find in one project suddenly become crystal clear when working on another project.

I may be working with someone on another project who happens to mention something that triggers the right questions. Or maybe they introduce me to a new technology, design, business idea, contact etc. Or maybe by sheer coincidence face a similar problem from a different perspective.

Did you figure it out?

Right now I have no solution.

My preferred way of working is intense. I love to get stuck into a project and literally not come up for air until all the "i"s are dotted and the "t"s are crossed. I tend to work best when in very intense "sessions" and push through from early morning until night.

However with other factors to consider such as family, health, sunshine, windsurfing and the annoying lack of hours in the day, this is not feasible and so now I am looking for the best way to tackle this dilemma.

I am sure this happens to most of us that work across many projects, so what are other people doing? How are you tackling this issue?