Recently, I had a conversation with Ben about how I’m doing at Mainsocial. It’s a yearly thing we’ve been doing, which is a great way to reset and kick off the year. Mostly it’s about things to improve, things to continue, and then some small talk about our cats.
One of the main things we talked about is something I’d like to share with everyone because I find that there are lots of people like me when it comes to this area.
I really have to be better at not jumping guns.
I’m already terrible at physically jumping, so this is something that I believe needs some attention when it comes to aspects of my life and work.
It happens often, and it doesn’t just usually get me into trouble, but always gets me into trouble. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s this awful need to address everything right away and ship it off as soon as possible.
What happens to me is that I will get an email about some issue, and something within my brain kicks in and takes over. I need to address this NOWNOWNOW. Fuck everything, this has to be finished A.S.A.P. And in a semi-blind rage of panic, I work on this and send it back out in record time.
As soon as that’s sorted, I breathe a bit looser and lean back against my chair, semi-relieved that I was able to get all of that sorted. Time to make a sandwich.
And that’s when the shit starts hitting the fan. Like, right around the time I am smearing mustard on my bread, the shit hits the fan.
The font size is wrong. It doesn’t work in Internet Explorer. The spacing got fucked when I changed that one property in the CSS. I added an extra file when I deployed to git. I forgot to pull the master branch before pushing my changes. Everyone hates me because I broke the internet. The cat is sleeping and won’t give me advice. My toast is burnt. The mustard is expired. My mother never loved me. No wait she actually did but just never said the words…
When it comes to work tasks, I am Quick Draw McGraw and that is a McGraw-ful thing to be.
It’s definitely a very difficult thing for me to deal with, but I know others experience the same thing. You just want to get it done. The tough thing is that while I just want to get it done, it has to be done right. I’m always missing that last part.
And so I’ve started to just be more aware of my tasks and have put a few mind-flags in place.
Let emails stay unread for a few minutes
I don’t need to read all the emails as soon as it gets into my inbox. I can finish what I’m doing first, and then move to the next thing. That nagging inbox count number does not have to be at 0 all the time.
Related: let emails stay unanswered for a few more
This one is a major one. I can’t count how many times I have sent a terrible email response simply by not letting the info sink in. Most emails don’t need to be addressed 0.5 seconds after it is received.
I’ve now taken it upon myself to read an email twice, let it stew for a while, and then have myself compose a proper draft without distractions. Then I’ll wait a few more minutes, read it again, and then finally send it out.
I didn’t realize it, but just taking a few extra minutes to collect my thoughts has really changed the way I communicate with people. It’s far from excellent right now, but I do see myself improving with this.
I’m sending less emails in a day. This is definitely a good thing, because before that, 40% of those said emails started with, “Sorry, please disregard that previous email…”
Make tasks separate by taking small breaks in between
Each time I finish a task, I bookmark it by standing up and walking around my apartment. I’ll make a cup of coffee or hang out with the cat for a couple of minutes. It’s a good indication for me that I’ve completed a task, as well as a way to not make me feel like I’m strapped to my chair all day.
Unless they think you’re dead, nobody will freak out
The thing is, whoever I’m doing the task for is probably not just sitting around waiting for me to send something back. We all have shit to do, and we all have different priorities to deal with.
I think this is another major one to keep in mind. In most cases, people actually know that I’m not a machine. There is only so much a person can do in a day, and also, there are only so many hours in a day. Assuming that someone is willing to disregard that is very dangerous, both for you and that other person.
You then start treading the line of how much that person respects your time and your work process, and setting this precedent leads to really awful outcomes.
Those are the few things I’m actively trying to change about myself this year. Still a long ways to go, but definitely seeing some signs of progress. Maybe by next year’s review I’d have a much better grasp at this “communicating with people” thing.