Anxiety doesn’t generally come from making decisions, but rather from the time spent deliberating on whether to make a decision.
At a certain point there’s enough information gathered, and a choice should be made. That choice isn’t always Option A vs Option B, but could include Option C all the way to Option Z.
If you’re struggling with a decision, use the best data you have now and decide (even if that means intentionally deciding not to act, just be direct about it). You’ll be wrong sometimes, but the anxiety of it will hopefully lessen.
You can tell someone what you’re thinking, and convey that in a way that you believe is correct. But that’s only a very small part of what it means to communicate something.
Communication happens through the words you choose to say, the words you leave unsaid, the way your words are shared, and the language your body is presenting (if you’re in person). You also communicate through the way you approach a project, how you talk to your team members, what you choose to share publicly and what is only said behind closed doors.
You also communicate through built up trust over an extended period of time. If a close friend tells you something that’s hard to hear, but says it in just the right way, it might have an impact. If a coworker with a bone to pick says something in a spiteful manner (even if they’re right), well you’re unlikely to take much notice.
All of this, and more, is important to keep in mind when trying to share your thoughts. It’s the responsibility of the sharer to convey what they mean to share.
Writing down an idea is a way to gather your thoughts and think through a problem. It’s also a way to decompress after a long day.
I’ve found over the years that I need to get out what I’m thinking in some form. Sometimes that comes down to sharing with a close friend how my day or week went and breaking down the pieces that occurred. Other times it means writing a daily update and sharing with my team.
Then, sometimes, writing means taking the idea or concept I’ve been struggling with and retooling it in a way that I can share more publically. Sure, this could benefit someone else reading this, but more importantly it’s an outlet for me to add some structure to my thoughts.
If you have found this helpful, or have any specific feedback, feel free to reach out!
You run into an interesting situation the moment you introduce more than one person into a project. Whereas at the start a project may have been from the mind of just one, now you have a few folks weighing in. At this point multiple opinions enter into a discussion, and you have to make decisions and tradeoffs based on that.
This is a good thing. When everyone is pulling together in a healthy tension great things can happen. The challenge is it can be hard for a team to figure out the right balance between that healthy tension and a toxic environment that shoots down the value of everyone’s feedback.
A lot of teams struggle with getting this balance right, and it’s tempting during any point in the project to think that everyone else is the problem. That’s not the case though. Any company you work at, any project you take on (unless you’re truly the only person) will involve figuring out how to work together with others.
Recognizing this and just calling out the tension for what it is helps to solve part of the problem. Also, having grace for what someone says, and what they mean, makes a big difference. For example, when someone is trying to explain a concept they are likely to not use the right words for what they’re trying to say. Or, they might say something that’s incorrect, or that you disagree with. Having grace and patience means you’ll accept their intent, or question what they said, and find a way to work together.
If you start counting remarks as points against a teammate, and holding onto those as fighting points, then collaboration and mutual support will start to break down.
Getting this right is hard. But it’s something we must figure out if we want to succeed in our work.
There are times when you’re presented with two opposing views. Surely two sides of something can’t both be correct at the same time, right?
Life usually isn’t black and white on everything. If you’re trying to figure out the best way forward on something, and are looking at multiple options that seem to have no clear crossover, then that’s where the hard work of making decisions has to come in.
It’s important when presented with all the information to make a decision. Then be willing to change that decision if it was wrong.
Five projects are due next week. You’re a blocker for two teams across four of those projects. You need to hire three new team members to handle all the work going on, but you have no time to find that hire.
What do you do?
You could work 12-15 hour days. You could find a new place to work. Or you could ignore most of what’s going on, focus on one or two things at a time, and deal with the fallout. Sometimes that last option is a decent one.
Here’s the thing. There’s not really a great answer. We all find ourselves in situations where there’s too much to do. In no particular order, here’s how I’ve found ways to deal with the insanity:
Take a break – Every seven days, on Saturday, I completely disconnect from work. That means I won’t check my work email, Slack, Github issues, design updates, attend business calls, business conferences, etc. It’s a solid rule I’ve made for my whole career, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve kept from getting fully burned out. At times I’ve gotten close, but there was always knowing Saturday would come and I could disconnect for 24 hours.
Get help from your team – It’s tempting to think we’re the only person in the world who can solve a problem. That’s not the case, not at all. If you work with others, or even if you’re completely on your own, chances are there’s someone out there who can help you.
Force constraints – Find a way to shrink the amount of work. There’s usually somewhere that fat can be cut without compromising the integrity of what you’re building.
Don’t overwork for too long – We’ve all done it where we worked a ton of hours for an extended period of time. The reality though is the quality of work absolutely suffers the more time we put in without rest. Sometimes it means deciding you’re done for the day and getting a full night’s sleep to tackle the problem with a fresh set of eyes.
Be nice to yourself – You’re amazing. You’re doing wonderful work, you believe in what you’re building, give yourself a bit of a break. It’s going to be ok.
It will be ok – Yes, this is worth repeating. You’ll get through this. Keep up the great work!
If you’ve ever try to build something, at some point you’ll need to figure out what it should look like. As a result you’ll probably turn to creating a wireframe or prototype.
That’s a good thing. Try to get it into a visual medium (a sketch, a cardboard prop, a whiteboard diagram).
However, as you do that, always shoot for low fidelity. Meaning, keep it as rough and simple and quick for as long as possible. 1 minute invested into a napkin sketch means only 1 minute lost if you have to change plans. 10-20 minutes invested into a wireframe can just as easily be thrown away for a new idea. Once you spend the time to really get into the details and create a fully flushed out visual prototype you’ll quickly find you’ve become attached to it. At that point scrapping the whole thing is hard, almost impossible.
Try to stay simple and quick for as long as possible.
There are times where we may feel that we have a bit too much going on. That might mean having a bunch of unactioned emails, unmarked todo list items, unread Slack messages (marked that way after taking a peak), or handful of text docs floating around.
At these times it’s easy for paralysis to set in. It’s impossible to take care of everything, so maybe we should just do… something else, instead of that.
At times like these there are ways to prioritize, triage, and focus. The big thing to keep in mind is a correlation between how big a task looms in our mind based on how long we’ve held off on doing it. When that happens sometimes it helps to promise yourself that you’ll only spend 5 minutes on it, just to get started.
Sometimes there are days where you’ve done it. You accomplished a herculean task. You got all the way through and by applying every last bit of energy you pulled off the impossible.
Days like that are magical, and unfortunately, can be rare. If you’ve reached that point in a day where it’s all come together – you’ve hit that deadline, delivered that project, solved that challenge – then give yourself a bit of a break.
Take that time to count your victories, and celebrate.
Just read a great idea to create sticky notes documenting your wins.