If you feel you’re constantly reacting and putting out fires with your work, instead of working calmly and proactively on your priorities, you could benefit immensely from doing a root cause analysis (also know as the “5 Why’s”).
It’s a simple technique, made even simpler by using Gingko to write it out.
Here’s how it works:
Write out the problem you’re facing, in the first card.
Ask yourself “Why did this happen?”, and put down all the reasons you can think of, as a child of that one.
For each of those reasons, ask yourself “Why did this happen?” again.
Keep going until you feel you’ve exhausted the reasons (try for at least 3 columns of “Why”)
Once you have uncovered not just the superficial reasons but also the deeper causes, you can edit those cards with potential solutions.
As an example, and in the interest of transparency, here’s my “5 why’s” for a recent serious bug with Gingko Desktop: after having saved once, doing something like “File > New” didn’t block to ask “Would you like to save your changes?”.
It caused two users to lose a few hours of work, and it was a one-line bug fix. I made the fix, and deployed it to everyone. But instead of stopping there, I did a root cause analysis which exposed 9 different solutions that I’ve implemented that not only helped fix this bug, but also prevent similar mistakes in the future.
If you find yourself scrambling a lot, and reacting to problems instead of working towards a goal of your choosing, try this.
It doesn’t take much time, but it does require a lot of humility to see where you yourself went wrong.
PS: Here’s my tree for this bug, complete with embarrassing details:
Life is both a series of long arcs, and a series of moments.
This, I think, is the greatest challenge of leading a good life. We can only ever touch the present, but the scale of our projects, our vision, and our lives span weeks, years, and decades.
I think Gingko provides one way to make sure we can guide ourselves through the long arcs that matter to us (raising a happy family, building a revolutionary company, writing an inspiring book), while still keeping clear what we need to do now to get there.
The greatest challenge in any large project, is keeping the daily tasks aligned with the long term goal.
It’s very easy to get lost in the details and the daily grind, and forget the big picture. Then you look up after two weeks of “hard work” to see where you’re at, and find you are no closer to your goal.
As with many challenges we all face in life, it’s partly due to a fundamental limitation of the human brain. We simply can’t keep our mind on the big picture, while we’re working on the details. And since we can only make progress by doing the daily detailed tasks, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed or lost.