Yesterday I discovered that I had discovered a new productivity tool: Procrastination laddering.
First a bit of background. I am an INFP personality type, that means that I always juggle more balls than I can manage, at least it feels that way. I work as a research scientist, I'm a father of four so you can imagine that I'm quite busy. Even so (and in character :), I have set a (wild, hairy) target for myself: To (eventually) learn enough physics to have some form of comprehension of quantum field theory (and String theory ;). Now, in order to that I have to both brush up college math, and learn a lot of new math and physics. All this in addition to my regular duties at work in family.
So how do I do that, and get some progression? Well: I have a list of stuff I need to learn and relearn (basic calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, topology, physics this and physics that ....). The list is long and daunting, and the method I'm currently using is that I always have two topics that I'm focusing on. One quite hairy, one less hairy. The thing is that I'm also a terrible procrastinator, but in this case my propensity to procrastinate can be turned into a effective motivator: I procrastinate by substituting what I feel i should (the really hairy stuff) by something I feel that I want to do right now (the less hairy stuff). When I eventually catch up with the really hairy stuff through more or less steady progress on the less hairy stuff I just set a new really hairy learning target that I can continue my procrastination while still making progress.
It works for me and I call it "procrastination laddering" :-)