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I'm facing the following situation: I can work very productively on one or two projects for a couple of weeks (40-60 hours), feeling that nothing (and nobody) can stop me, getting all things done. But once I reach a certain milestone, where only the details are left to do, I suddenly can't get anything done for a week or so. I admire colleagues who in contrast can work 35 hours steadily and maintain a constant productivity level. Is there a way to control the wavy productivity levels and switch to a more rigorous, constant output level? What are ways of doing so?

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2 Answers 2

This is a really common issue. Some people are natural 'finishers' who live for those final details, but others are happiest with getting the broad areas right and switch off from the details.

It is hard work making that change- what I try and do is hire both types into a team as that is often the simplest solution.

In the case where you want to improve your own attention and interest in details my best suggestion is to set milestones around the mist difficult challenges and play it like a game, scoring yourself on documentation, final layout, user acceptance, whatever you need at that stage.

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Reading between the lines, I'm guessing that you are being unproductive because of procrastination: you distract yourself with non-work to avoid finishing the projects. Perhaps the root cause, in your case, is your fear of failure or fear of success. If this is true, a good way to force yourself to finish the details quickly may be to "burn the bridges behind you", e.g. when the project is almost finished, tell your boss or customer that and schedule a demo. This should force you to focus.

Alternatively, it may be that you are not procrastinating at all, and you are simply underestimating the amount of work needed to take care of all those details, and when they take more time than you expected, you feel unproductive. If this is the case, then you don't really have a problem, and you just need to be consciously aware of this underestimation. For software projects, "Hofstadter's law" applies:

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

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