Reducing Frustration

Becoming Attractive

Frustrated? I can relate…

The reason I am frustrated is because my scope is too large, and too wide. If I could concentrate on one thing and bring it to completion, I would feel successful… or at least I might feel better. Maybe?

— an unamed manager

Parsing Work

Have you ever been in that position? I think we all have at one time or another. For instance, I want to finish blank [name a large project comprising many smallish tasks]. Let’s use an example of building a cabin on a farm. The goal is to “finish the cabin.” But that scope is too broad, comprising too many individual projects. If we stick this in our minds or let other people tell us that our story is to finish this cabin [the project]… then we will be constantly frustrated because it cannot be done, at least not quickly. It will be completed at some point in the future, but if our story is to “Finish the Cabin,” we may spend much time feeling frustrated before that end goal.

This plays out all across our life. When leading teams, we have multiple projects that need to be completed at any time and numerous priorities at any time during the day. There is no way to finish or think about it all at once. Additionally, there are constant interruptions and diversions. We lose team members. We gain Scope. More work is added, but no additional labor resources. We have to reprioritize. Lower-priority work languishes for weeks and months. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay in touch with the work and parse it out. Technical people (and people in general) get de-focused on unnecessary details and lower priority tasks or spin to no end trying to figure out a problem or solution. Often, this can waste hours or even days.

How do you deal with it? Do you keep firefighting and look to retirement or the next exit ramp? Firefighting issues can be exciting and even sometimes innovative, but it will burn you out after a while. You can eat the elephant, but just not in one sitting. It is easy to understand that analogy, but it is harder to realize that the total scope of personal and business work is the elephant. To reduce your frustration level, you need to begin to parse it into servable portions.

Parsing work is easier said than done. This is because we are “in flight,” and it’s like building an aircraft while it is flying. See the EDS airplane commercial. Dr. Tom Browdy, a professor at Washington U, was given to say that any transformation is like trying to change a tire while you’re driving down the road at 60 miles an hour, and the tire iron is beating you to death. It’s an interesting, if not somewhat accurate, analogy.

Changing how you work is based on changing the way you think and, to some degree, your emotions. It can be difficult, but there are some tricks and tips to help you navigate the forest to come through successfully and unscathed. We don’t want you completely unscathed, though. Lose the weight dragging you down, and gain a new perspective and process. Yes, it will take effort, but it is worth the price of admission.

The critical thing to remember is that this is a discovery, not a destination. It may not be very reassuring, but what works for one person is not exactly what will work for another. This is a custom, form-fitting suit, not jeans you might pick up at the local discount. The bad news is that no step-by-step plan will give you the freedom and peace you may be looking for. The good news is that there is an overall framework that can help you create your customization of the destination where you want to live.

What is the framework? Let’s get to it!

What is your goal?

As workaholics and firefighters, it is tempting to list an entire range of goals. Start with one and then build on that success. Remember, this is about getting out of a mindset that frustrates us. The temptation is to make an elephant out of this as well. This is a part of changing how we work, think, and process information: One step at a time.

Evaluate your mindset

To be successful, you have to THINK successful. Research cognitive bias and determine the following:

  • What cognitive biases (CB) do you have?
  • What CB will interfere with your goals?
  • What thought pattern can you use to change your Cognitive Bias’ and thinking?
Be Accountable
  • Find a couple of people who understand your goal and the process to help keep you accountable and help redirect you when you wander afar. It’s okay to wander a bit and discover. But this can typically be a pattern of behavior causing frustration as well. The goal (of the plan) is to experience success and build on it.
  • The art of “Find Someone” means that you informally interview potential candidates and agree to have weekly or more often meetings to discuss progress and roadblocks.
  • A professional coach is a great idea!
  • About Roadblocks – A roadblock is not something to avoid. We want to identify the roadblocks, fix the road, and remove the roadblock. If we avoid or go around the roadblock, we may find ourselves at an impasse.
Determine your current workload

It probably means making a list of everything you must do in life. I hate to say, “Create a spreadsheet,” because you would think we would be using something more advanced than spreadsheets by now. But if it’s good enough for corporate life, I guess it is good enough for this.

Set Priorities for each workload item

It can be difficult when you have competing priorities, such as three issues that vie for a number one position. But do your best to only assign one priority level to one task or problem. For example, if you use numbers as a priority, you only have one item assigned to the priority-one position. You would not have three priority-one issues.

If you have a project with multiple items, count the project overall. Otherwise, you could have twenty or thirty items, issues, or even hundreds, and it’s not tenable; you can’t begin to parse that many issues. Try to keep it to no more than ten issues. In the spirit of agile, put the rest into the backlog.

It can be helpful to evaluate issues from a Quick-Win situation. If you have a lower-priority item but know you can knock it out quickly, do it and get a quick win.

Use the Top 3 Process
  • Choose your top 3 items and try to move the needle to ‘Done’ on only those items. Start with priority one and work it until complete, or you cannot go any further. Then, work priority two in the same way. Go back to priority one or on to priority three. Complete at least one top-three before moving number four in.
  • If the priority needs to change or an emergent issue has to be in the top 3, that’s okay, but do not work on anything lower than priority three.
  • Do not work priority four or lower items UNLESS you are at a stop on All top 3 priorities.
  • When you finish a top 3 issue, move a lower priority issue in.
On a Daily Basis
  • Look at your priority list and re-evaluate.
  • Take at least 5 minutes to close your eyes and think about completing at least one item.
  • Focus and finish.
  • At the end of the day, re-evaluate.
  • Give thanks and practice being grateful for whatever the day brought your way.

There are many different ways to think about work, life, and success – and this is but one of them. I have incorporated what I have learned over the past thirty years. This is only part of what it could take to move from a firefighting mode of work to one of prioritization. Instead of responding to issues on the back side, you can begin to be proactive on the front. No one likes to be dragged along behind the horse.

By changing to a proactive work process, your day and the day for your team can be less frustrating. As your team begins to see you make positive changes to protect their sanity by adhering to best practices, they will start to trust, relax, and be more productive. Maybe YOU can, too.

Take the Next Step

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Authored by H Mark Taylor – An Independent Certified Coach, Teacher, Trainer, and Speaker with Maxwell Leadership Certified Team
Copyright © 2024 H Mark Taylor. All rights reserved.

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