Before I dig into this post too much, I should probably quickly explain the title.
Fleeting notes (or disposable notes) are those quick notes that you take during the day. This could be using Apple Notes or Google Keep, or even just a notepad on your desk.
Yak shaving is when you have one issue get interrupted by another, which is interrupted by another, and it continues on to the point where the initial problem never gets solved. When I shared this idea a few years ago, I used this great clip from “Malcolm in the Middle”:
Fleeting notes can save you
As summarized well by Sal Ferrarello, the key is to put the new issues aside and continue to focus on the problem at hand. In the case of the video above, the new light bulbs were right there; make a quick note to yourself (“fix the wobbly shelf”), but grab the light bulb and fix the problem at hand first.
It’s easier said than done, as these problems lined up rather nicely (in a scripted TV show, what are the odds?), but the same happens to us. Fleeting notes are one of my big keys to getting things done. I don’t want to forget about ideas and issues that pop up, but if I immediately jumped into them every time I’d never get anything done.
At the end of that short clip above, Hal still had a broken light bulb, a wobbly shelf, a squeaky drawer, no WD-40, and a rumbling engine — with none of them being fixed. Days like this are when you say “I was working all day and feel like I got nothing done“. You’re right!
As I say all of this, you should know that I’m an excellent yak shaver, as I get distracted a lot. The better I can use my fleeting notes to track new issues without diving into them right away, the better my day ends up being.