More haste, less speed!

Oct 06, 2014

Ever had to create a project plan in a hurry? Or deliver a new code feature in a tight time frame? How did you set about trying to achieve it and how productive were you at the task? If you’ve ever had a deadline for a task and then sat down and tried to create what you need to deliver, it can be a challenge.

Its so tempting to start with the step that is closest to getting the job done (creating line entries in a project plan or starting writing the code as soon as possible), when actually it may be more productive to step back and ask ourselves some questions first. Shape the solution at a higher level, before trying to create the end deliverable. And that’s the takeaway from this article. Take the time to slow your haste, to increase your productivity.

I chose to slow my haste this week when trying to solve a problem with security roles in a product I was creating. I was so focussed on the time and a whole set of other tasks I also needed to progress, that I kept trying to fix what was there and struggled. My mindset was, this shouldn’t take a long time to resolve so I shouldn’t have to dig too deep. But as I saw more time ticking away and noticed the rising frustration in me, I chose to step away and give myself the space I needed to think about it differently, and then I was able to move forwards and solve it.

What I found, and I offer this if it relates to you, is that committing to go and take a step back was the hardest part. Breaking that convincing storyline in my head that told me that if I just continued what I was doing I would get there, was the piece that actually took the most time. In the end I did it through exhaustion of possible options I could think of. Now when I’m designing new code or planning out tasks, I step back as a matter of course, but not always when I’m trying to solve a problem. So, reflect where you do already take a step back and where you don’t but could benefit. And then ask yourself how you can make that happen.

Having made the commitment to step back, the next question is what technique do you use to help you get what you need. Is it a change of perspective to help you structure the solution? Do you need a means to boost your creativity out of that emotional ‘rush rush rush’? Do you need to find a way past roadblocks of assumptions you’ve already made in trying to think it through? Notice how you work best and what activities give you what you need.

I have a visual work preference, so am creative when I sit and draw out mind maps and notes on a page of paper. If I’m writing code, I’ll draw out a design which breaks down the complexity of each piece, so I can then code without having to think about the wider whole. I also find brainstorming with someone else a huge help because it forces me to describe to them the whole concept, bypassing assumptions that I’ve put up in my mind. For others, movement helps. I’ve heard from many managers who like to take ‘meeting walks’ to talk and problem solve. At Inviting Futures we also have a selection of different coaching exercises that can support you to look at the task from different perspectives.

The key here is to experiment. Always time box the activity, and assess the results it gives you in productivity. Its about taking consistent action to shift us into being better able to deliver. Its not about just spending more time thinking as that can become inaction, analysis paralysis, with us never finishing (or starting) at all! We need to understand what it is that works for us, to give us that different perspective and inspiration to support us to be more productive. And that reduces haste and waste!

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