I remember doing a management interview in my working days called Potentia, I think. It seemed to be about my capability to progress further up the management level. During the feedback one thing stuck with me. I was good at generating ideas and getting projects started but like 80% of the organisation, I struggled to finish things. I suspect the programme was designed to find those 20% that did get projects finished. Funnily enough at the time, I felt fine about being in the 80%. It meant I fitted in with the company which was always a worry to me. Nowadays I would say my disguise would good enough to make me look NT. Putting aside my lack of ambition (now there’s a good topic for a post), the struggling to finish things really resonated with me. It still does to this day.
The current project at home, is the reorganisation of our two common sitting rooms. We used to have dedicated to the kids and TV and the other was mainly a repository of books and musical instruments. With our youngest child now being 17 years old with the additional of two lodgers keen to help us redecorate, we change the function of the play room. We wanted to make it into a cosy sitting room-cum-library. Rather than just redecorate we wanted to remove the seventies additions and improve the are around the log-burning stove. After several months, the room is coming together. My partner and I are currently sorting through our books and moving them and some book cases through from the music room.
I know some people would put a weekend aside and blitz the room but I can’t manage that. My brain literally cannot cope with so much change over a sustained period of time. In order to cope, I have a little bit at a time. In order for something to get finished, I need to consistently chip away at something.
I have been reminded of this several times recently. My wife and I were having a business partners meeting yesterday morning. We start by saying how we are in a general sense before looking through our agenda and action points. I said that I was feeling rather depressed and struggling to cope with things like GDPR, the new website but also by things outside of work like trying to do positive things like an online course and my month long blog project. I find it difficult to maintain momentum on these things. It feels like companies are abusing the data regulations to slip things into contracts, or they are ignoring it completely. I feel lonely and isolated in the decisions I make but that I’ve decided that it is better to make a decision than feel helpless. There is also so much detail that wasn’t apparent on first looks. I keep getting called back to things I thought had been sorted rather than moving forward to cover new areas. And I am not even sure whether it is worthwhile.
The solution is a standard algorithm. It is called “divide and conquer”, that is break the problem down into smaller problems until you get to a sense that can be achieved in reasonable time. The problem has to be amenable this this approach but for most things I do, they are. A side-effect of D&C is that you can be left with lots of things to solve and for someone like me, it can be difficult to decide where to start and what to do next. In addition, it might take longer to solve the sub-problem that you first thought. Such is the case of GDPR. It is pretty easy to break down into areas and work through each section. It seems some bits are more complicated but also some things need to be agreed between more than one company. It is hard to make progress is one company in the setup isn’t interested in doing anything.
For me, maintaining momentum in a large project requires the satisfaction of completing some things but also feeling that the whole project is moving forward. I can get too focused on one bit of work, and if progress isn’t made I get frustrated and depressed. I lose the bigger picture. My wife helped me dig out some small issues that could be relatively easily addressed so that at least I felt I had achieved something on one front of GDPR.
It seems to work in a general sense for me too. I would prefer to go swimming every day because the sense of achievement I get from the exercise becomes more consistent. I prefer to tidy up on an ongoing basis rather than making a bit thing of it. Actually I’m not sure “prefer” is the right word. I think it is more about being manageable. I still dislike tidying up for 15 minutes twice a week but I force myself to do it because my wife appreciates it, the tidying makes a difference to our environment, and 15 minutes goes quite quickly. I can logically overcome my emotional difficulties for short periods.
Yesterday I decided to try and tidy up one thing every time I entered a room. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just small and easy to achieve. So currently there is a bowl and spoon on the arm of the sofa I am sitting on. That would be an easy thing to put into the dishwasher and more than adequately fit the bill. In fact I could agree the bowl and spoon are two separate things. But this rule needed some modification. In taking the bowl to the kitchen, I entered another room and so in theory I would need to do something there too. This could be okay but if I end up going into another room then another task completion is required. So the modification is that if I enter a room to achieve the tidying task of another room, then that doesn’t trigger another tidying task. So entering the kitchen to put something in the dishwasher would not require another tidying task, but going into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee would.
I guess you could call these single tidying tasks a micro transaction. I don’t think I could sign up to doing 15 minutes of tidying every work day but a micro transaction every now and again seems okay. This however probably only works on things I do. Sharing a project requires compromise. The transitioning of our sitting rooms is something my wife and I do together. I recognise that this project is just about sorting out two rooms. It is also about working and building an environment we both have agreed on. It is about working together renewing our bonds and community. It is a strange phenonium. Sometimes I can achieve more if I work with other people (e.g. tidying) but sometimes I am better when there are a minimum number of people around (e.g. swim training).
Perhaps living life is about finding the balance between the extremes and knowing when doing something with others is more appropriate than doing something alone.