As I get deeper into my work on this lease-reading thing, I'm increasingly finding myself spending back-to-back days just thinking about what I ought to be making, and figuring out if what I made yesterday was actually a step forward.
It doesn't feel great to spend a day staring at my laptop screen, only to up with almost no code to show for it, but sometimes that's how it is with Level 3 Interesting Work™. You may not be familiar with the scale I'm referring to because I am inventing it at this very moment, but it goes like this:
Level 1 Interesting:
Somewhere, far away from you, something interesting is happening, and the work you're doing has a good chance of contributing to it. Someone else told you what the problem is. Someone else told you how to fix it.
You are a machine for implementing someone else's solution. Level 1 Interesting Work™ may occasionally be intellectually stimulating, but usually only by accident, and this intellectual stimulation happens less and less as you become more experienced.
Level 2 Interesting:
Much closer to you, there's a clear problem. People around you are clearly explaining what the problem is to them, but you, as the Level 2 Interesting Problem Solver™, have to solve it. And in order to do that, you have to figure out what the problem really is.
You have to uncover the first principles that come together to produce the Level 2 Bad Thing™ and design a true and durable solution. In Level 2, you must be wise, you must make hard decisions, and yet you almost always know where your attention is best directed. Level 2 is a warm and fuzzy sweet spot between 1 and 3.
Level 3 Interesting:
Things are fine. There is no obvious problem. The world is humming along as usual, with plenty of people like you doing their Level 1 or Level 2 job. But you, for some reason, think things could be better. You imagine a variation of reality that seems to be an improvement, and you think "If we were used to living there, and then suddenly found ourselves here, then that would feel like a problem."
And so you set out trying to achieve that variation. Unlike Level 1, no one has described the solution for you. Unlike Level 2, no one has described a problem for you to solve. There is not a manual that explains where you should direct your attention.
You do less "finding" and more "inventing". Invent a way to prioritize your work. Invent a way to think about the problem. Invent a way to remind yourself, day after perfectly fine day, that there really is a problem and someone like you will eventually Level 3 Solve™ it.