Friday, January 30, 2009

How I stopped worrying and learned to isolate issues

I think of myself as a chaotic kind of guy. I’m quick to grasp things, to switch between ideas, to generate loads of ideas and concepts - quite handy really. Unfortunately, it also scatters my thinking and not only the thoughts themselves, but also my worries. I jump from worry to worry. Take an e-learning project for instance. In our projects we have to deal with graphic design, instructional design, scriptwriting, technology, subject matter experts, project managers and what not.

It’s easy to fret over any of these elements. And with a scattered mind like mine, it’s even easier to jump from issue to issue and fret about the whole lot simultaneously. Fretting however doesn’t solve anything - nobody needs to be told that. But while we all know fretting doesn’t help, many of us can’t seem to find something that does help, so fretting is our basic response.

Luckily I’m beginning to see a way which does help: isolation. The problem with worries and issues always seems to be that everything is connected to everything. This interconnectedness of everything is the daunting thing about most issues, the paralysing factor. It makes you feel powerless to act. You stop acting and start fretting.

Isolation is the key to turning this behaviour around. Yes, everything is interconnected, but just act like it isn’t. Define areas which can be addressed individually. Appoint people who are concerned with particular areas and keep them there. Specify responsibilities. Be strict. If you don’t, it won’t be long before people start crossing their responsibilities. Of course they probably think they are helping out with the best of intentions, but what happens is that everything is becoming connected again. People will start to jump from area to area, from worry to worry and paralysis will again be everybody’s part.

So don’t think yourself patronizing, belittling or inflexible when you introduce the concept of isolation, by using boundaries and restrictions. You’re really doing everybody a favour.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Looking out is the only way to truly look in.

Are you busy? Are you passionate about the things you do? Are you caught up thinking about what you could improve, how you can tweak your performance, your product, your processes? As a professional you should. But mostly we are only doing so by looking in, by absorbing ourselves completely. Of course there is a lot to find and do in the crevices of your mind, but try to look out for a change.

Try to step away from yourself every now and then. Imagine yourself hovering just above your body and observe. Don't judge, just observe. Don't ask Why yet, but How, What and When. How are you impacting the things around you? How are you reacting to impulses? How do you talk when you are relaxed? How do you use your hands when you talk? How do you walk? What happens when you are asked to do something for someone else? What changes when you become stressed? What makes you angry? What makes you laugh? When are you happy? When are you anxious? When do you become tired? You'll be amazed by the patterns and behaviours you can find by observing yourself this way.

Patterns and behaviours which are the data you need, to ask yourself Why questions: Why do I become stressed? Why do I feel like I can't contribute to a conversation? Why do I feel happy when doing certain things? Why am I good at certain tasks, but not so good at others? Why am I always feeling tired? Your body and behaviours never lie to you, listen to their answers. But never forget: don't judge! Accept.

And be accepting of others.

From Reaction to Action

Halfway week 4 - the end of my first month is dawning.

After an exhausting first week of getting to know everybody, settling in and coming to terms with the whole getting-up-early-routine, this job is suiting me like a glove. Mostly because I’m feeling and acting very different from how I did in my first job. The last couple of days I have been pondering the question: “But in which way am I different than?” Early this morning it hit me: it’s all about action versus reaction. I am not reacting any more, I am acting.

Before, I had many reservations towards taking action. I’m a very social kind of guy. I empathize with people a lot. Sounds nice, but as a result I have a tendency to become a reactive person. Someone who’s constantly busy with thoughts like: “Oh dear, what would someone think if I do this or that?”, “Will somebody feel bad if I decide something?”, “Should I wait for them to do something, I don’t want to be pushy”, “If I don’t hear something, it’s probably all right”. All very considerate of course, but you know what they say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

From day 1 (ok.. maybe day 3) at TinQwise I have almost stopped doing this. I’ve become active. And my initial fear: “When I stop being reactive, won’t I lose my empathy and considerateness?” has proven to be completely false! My new attitude is tremendously helping the things I’m doing. Instead of thinking: “What would they think about this or that” I just ask immediately. Instead of “Should I wait for them to do something” I start and inform everybody to jump on board – and they do! Willingly! No more “If I don’t hear something, it’s probably all right.” I’m on the phone with everybody as soon as something is changing.

And lo and behold, we are making tremendous progress, everybody knows where we are, everybody is happy and more over: everybody is working their butts off. All because I initiate and take action. What a liberation!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Impressions of a First Day

I'm here!

My first day at my new job at TinQwise. And it's weird! It's familiar and strange, exhausting and tiring, exciting and scary all at once. Nothing different is to be expected of course - you have to be realistic about these things. I'm sitting here behind a different desk, on a not so comfortable chair (I miss my Herman Miller!), in a new building with a different view, strange smells, different temperature and not to forget: different people!

Over the last couple of months I have come to meet many of them during my infrequent visits. But now they're my colleagues. Now I will see them 5 days a week, now I am going to work with them - now everything is for real.

It's strange to experience how small things make such a huge difference. A small office with one other guy now, instead of a wide open space. Music on in people's offices. A constant stream of chatter and laughter drifting down the hall. Everbody lunching together! They are all small things, but all together they make it so clear: I'm here now.

Starting anew.

Bring it on!