But not always 10%

Maybe 10% isn’t so great.

I’m working through 3000 emails from 2008. Most can be deleted now. Maybe 1 in 20 is worth keeping. The first few sessions were encouraging. The thrill of a new project, and the ease with which I cleared out all the emails from a group that closed, and all those oh-so-valuable coupons and newsletters, was deceptive.

After a week, though, I’m struggling to keep up. It’s boring. It was easy to do 300 the first day, but a week later I’m worn out just doing 150. (See the power of 10%? 8 days and I’m down to half.)

I’ll probably keep the pressure up, since seeing the number go down is the only thing that keeps me going. (And, yes, I do want to do this. My email program is getting slow due to the volume of the archives. It’s just … tedious.)

Or, maybe I didn’t get enough sleep for two nights, and everything is tedious.

Pros and Cons:

Staying with 10%

Pros: Keeps momentum up. Visible progress each session. Each session gets easier.

Cons: Tedious.

Lowering the Percentage:

Pros: More likely to meet and even exceed each day’s goal.

Cons: Slower progress. Project is less exciting. More temptation to spin up another plate. More likely to skip a day (it’s only one day out of a 60 day project, and since it’s only a small number I can do double tomorrow.)

If I go too low, it feels silly, almost like I’m gaming the system. Yes, it’s still getting the work done, but the progress feels too slow to count.

Raising each Day’s Goal:

Nuts, since I’m already struggling to finish a session.

Changing to Constant Goal:

Pros: Even faster progress, since it won’t go down as the total goes down. 10% of the original will have it cleared in 10 days (if I don’t burn out).

Cons: The easier emails are already dealt with. The remaining ones are harder, and that will increase as I progress. Even though I’m pretty-much doing them in date order, I often see a group such as a monthly catalog that I can delete all at once. After processing 6 weeks’ worth, though, I’ve done all the monthly catalogs, so that effect may not be as large as it was earlier in the project.

A bit of math: At 10% each day, calculated at the start of the day, a 100 item backlog will be cleared in 28 days, and a 300 item backlog will be cleared in 38 days. In practice it takes less time. Most days, finishing a conversation will take me over the goal. As the pile shrinks, it just seems silly to do only a few items a day. 3000 items will be cleared in 60 sessions. If I set a 10-item per day minimum, that drops each one by 23. (The last 100 takes 10 days vs 33.)

We’ll see.

I’m also working on a second, more-recent, paper filing backlog. I was doing 10% each day, but lately that feels too high, maybe because the email project is wearing me down. The paper pile is now on 3 items per day. That’s not enough to make fast progress, but it doesn’t seem silly as long as the goal is to keep it active rather than see progress. I’ll speed it up once the 2008 email is done.

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