Change Win-Lose to Win-Learn

No-one likes losing. I don’t! I generally feel like I’ve take a step backwards. Those I work with may have lost a little faith.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I think it’s apocryphal but if it took 10,000 failures for Edison to invent the light bulb, noting each time that, “well, that didn’t work”, and then “that didn’t work” – 10,000 times, it was all learning, not losing.

More recently, a product called WD-40, has that name because the first 39 versions did not achieve what the creators were developing! (HT to Michelle Ockers of Learning Uncut)

I attended a leadership course a couple of years ago and here are my bullet points I rediscovered while re-organising my reference material (bracketed notes are my thoughts now):

– There is always more than one perspective, you may need to change lenses (this can be tough, especially in a topic you thought you had sorted already but …)
– There’s generally more than one “right” answer (and rather than thinking we were wrong or fell short, maybe we just added a cool new tool to our toolkit.)
– And, building on that, don’t stop at the first “right” answer you find (always ask, at least initially, “And what else …?”)
– Learn to sell your “photos”, or, in management terms, your vision (the “photo” reference may have come from a story in the course which I cannot recall)
– Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (this is a well worn truism, still true though)
– Break the pattern (people maybe more comfortable with unhappiness than uncertainty (Tim Ferris, 4 Hour Work Week, p xx). Breaking the patterns may need broad shoulders for a while. People are comfortable with their own patterns.)
– Reframe the problem to be an opportunity (e.g. what can I learn from this gap?)

Every time we look at what we have done and critically analyse it, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn something new:
– about ourselves and
– about those we work with.

Maybe it’s Not the To Do List

I’ve been thinking about to do lists lately and the plethora of apps and processes that promise to alleviate us of our stress and make our lives so much better.

Many of these tools do help us accomplish those things. But there are also situations where we look at our list, whether it’s in a notebook, on an app or in our head and we still get overwhelmed. There is just too much to do and not enough time. Apparently, the ancient Romans had the same issue!

I’ve been pondering if there is a root cause. Something besides the number of tasks and the time we have. Even the most disciplined people can “fall off the wagon” and need to get back in control. What causes this?

The founder of Ness Labs, Anne-Laure Le Cunff (@anthilemoon) has just begun a YouTube channel and she discusses three types of motivation when it comes to procrastination. One of which I want to discuss here: perceived abilities.

If we look at our to do lists we see a lot of tasks that come within the brief of our job, whether that job is your employment or a more casual (non-KPI’d) role, like being a dad or a friend or a maintenance guy around the house (I have the fix the headlight on my car!).

We can look at the list of tasks and some are relatively easy to do. For me, presenting in public comes relatively easy, simply because I’ve done it so many times and feedback has been good (or, perhaps, polite! ;)). Therefore, if someone asks me to do a presentation, I’m not going to get too anxious, in fact, I’ll probably look forward to it! weird huh?).

In another area of my role, as a change analyst, I’m relatively new to the function and I’m working on an IT project, which is also new to me. I’ve been asked to develop a change plan. Not something I’ve done before. I have been given guidance and a template and plenty of support. I still procrastinate and look at the task, not with dread, but certainly with a little less confidence than giving a presentation. There are so many elements that go into a change plan I don’t really know where to start, or what is enough information and what might be too much.

As I develop my change analyst skills, this will become easier. We grow, even if it’s subconsciously, in the things we repeatedly do.

Therefore, when I suggest the list isn’t the problem, I’m suggesting it might (also) be the skill set required to complete the tasks on the list. Brian Tracy authored the book, “Eat That Frog” to help people get over the toughest task of the day early. My question is, “why is it tough?” Referring back to Anne-Laure‘s* video, she also discusses two other motivational areas: head and heart. She explains it better than I can, so head on over to the video (and subscribe while you’re there).

For many of us, me included, a long list can cause anxiety in and of itself. But then, as you decide which task to tackle first (or second, or third …), you need to be aware of what skills you have to complete the task. And what skills you need. And once you have decided that, what are you going to do about it to become more competent, less anxious and enjoy work more.

Here’s my Plan

My process will be to look at tasks and batch them. As Tim Ferriss* (among others) has written and spoken of time and time again you don’t need to know everything about a topic, you just need to know the top 20-30% of things (Tim refers to speaking Japanese and how many words you really need to learn!) To me this means: what skills do many of these tasks require and what skills do I need to develop.

Touch Typing

I have been procrastinating on touch typing. Why? Even though I am making small progress, I just want to be able to do it now! I start and stop with the practice. I know becoming competent will benefit me, especially as my mind races with thoughts that I cannot get out quick enough.

Learning how to develop a Zettelkasten

Another is developing a Zettelkasten approach to note taking to help me learn more, with more interest and, in the long run, learn quicker.

Both of the above would help me develop change plans better, as one example, and through more effective research and developing ideas.

The list itself, at least for me, isn’t the basic issue. It’s having or developing the skills I need to complete the tasks on the list; whether I am looking at the larger outcome (Change Plan) or breaking it down to smaller tasks.

Coming Up: How Developing the Skills adds to the Time to Complete Tasks

*shameless name dropping! 🙂