I try to keep a running list. I certainly have days like you describe despite that! One thing that helps me is to break bigger tasks up into mini-tasks - you got the cedar for the skids. That was step one. Maybe tomorrow you'll get it cut to shape, and step two will be done! My own task like that was using some donated cinder blocks to build a raised tomato bed. The ground really wasn't leveled enough, so instead of just plopping them down, I'm having to add some rocky fill. To get to one of my "rock collections" I had to clear Himalayan Raspberry out of the way. I'm trying *really* hard to take the time to get the roots out when I chop the tops down or otherwise it will just come right back. That took a couple of days of the short bits I can give the project! The bottom row of blocks is about half down but I've got to add more rock to the south-west corner. The good news is that once the first row is down, the rest of the project should proceed quickly, and it's not tomato season yet.
I don't mind my mole-whacking as long as *something* gets done... but I can remember working on other people's farms and having discussions about why item A was not done.
Your project is a perfect example, Jay; you could have ignored the roots and not really bothered leveling... and be 'done'! Not a good plan, but that would have made that farmer happy. If I'd had the eyes to see it, the state of their farm could have told me this...
Sounds like you'll be well prepared for tomato time!
I do hope that finding and felling the second cedar isn't so much of a mole-bomb though..
Honestly, living that way would be my seventh circle of hell. yes things got done, but was it truly an efficient use of time?
For me (since you asked) the day was an utter failure because the plan was to get started on the skiddable shower. In my experience, getting started on a project is one of the toughest parts, and when a hurdle was presented to you, you drifted off task. The question is not so much that a hurdle developed (they always do), but there was no real desire to overcome it. Once the excavator got fired up, there was a drift in priorities.
For me, I would have felled the second tree after the first lodged, just in case that one too needed to be taken down with the excavator. Then I would have used the excavator to pull the wood out of the woods on the way back to the homestead and tipped over the leaning tree and leveled the soil because I was already in the tractor, then parked it and changed the oil.
I am not knocking you here, I am trying to show that effeciency comes in planning.
It really depends on what your priorities are. For me it might be doing all I can while on the tractor, but if I really wanted to accomplish all I could on the skiddable shower, I would have stayed on task with that and forgot the leaning tree and the oil change. The oil change would be a great rainy day job (assming you have a shop for the machine).
Since I never want to be a person who mentions a problem and does not give a method to problem solve it, my suggestion is to use a list. They do not have to be fancy, but I really like Excel.
But mine include a few things besides just what I want to do. I include what the task is. How much time I think it will take. If it is indoors or out. And if I need a tractor or not. (or bulldozer, excavator etc). By looking at all that information, I then see what the sequence of the days events should be.
If you look at my list for the day, you will see how I do this. Just coming up with the list forces me to plan.
Now it would seem my sequence is way off because I should plow the heavy haul road while I have the tractor running, but today it is below zero out so i KNOW I will need to warm up before doing the roadway. But I minds well do something while I am getting warm in the house, so I will do dishes while I am making the best use of my time. The sequence also takes into account priorities. I need to drain the water from another house before it freezes, so that is where that comes into play!
A person has to plan, then stick with teh plan or NOTHING meaningful gets done.
I'm often going things to avoid the crappy feeling that I get from doing nothing.
When this is the case, diverting from dishes to washing dishcloths is fine, I'm just racking up confidence in my own ability to accomplish things, so one I'd as good as the other.
For me, finishing in a timely fashion preserves hard won mental energy and physical materials that are often lost or damaged when the project is set aside for another time.
I will also make to do lists, then label them according to priority, or ask my wife which is most important to her.
I invariably lose these lists, but when I find them later, I'm pleasantly surprised to find most of the tasks completed.
Even when I have a definitive central goal, I find that side quests are inevitable.
Fixing the fence at my forest garden plot in a permanent and affordable way could take multiple paths, but the one that calls for IBC totes means I need a working cargo vehicle, and that is something I need for many other things.
For challenging individual tasks, I visualize the steps in my head, and write down only the skills,tools, or materials I'll need but don't yet have.
Travis' way of using an Excel document to hold his list is one way of not loosing it! I also see the advantage of being able to use it to order the tasks, but still be able to change that order if necessary. It's also easy to cut and copy an item that gets postponed because S*** happened (in my case it's sometimes a sick/injured bird that has to be put in protective custody and warmth).
Because it's easy to add rows, and to widen rows, adding an item or taking a complex task and writing in several sub-steps you know are needed (like fueling the tractor so you don't run out in the back of beyond!) also becomes easier.
All that said, I think that Travis is also right that, "getting started on a project is one of the toughest parts". Taking a few minutes to really think about the projects you have planned and consider why they're sitting on the "Honey do" list and not moving, and then considering the *real* reason they're on stall, is a kind of introspection many of us are bad at. Sometimes the real reason is other priorities, sometimes it's lack of equipment, sometimes it's a warm place to work... the list goes on. Facing up to those reasons is sometimes all it takes to get it off stall. Sometimes doing something/ or part of something that has meaning for or is enjoyable to the worker (in my case, spending 1 hour a day on the raised tomato bed) helps them move on jobs that need doing, but have negative associations (like I needed to use the drill press which is in a cold miserable place to do a repetitive boring task - that project moved yesterday by a good chunk).
I live with a world class procrastinator who fills his days with minutia and is particularly bad at finishing the last 10%. If someone reads this and identifies himself, be aware that when those around you seem not to appreciate the job you finally finish, it's not because they don't think the job is well done, but because they're thinking, "Thank god, now why couldn't he have done that 5 years ago." (yeah just a little frustration coming out there!! )