Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Sucking eggs

This post may involve teaching most readers to suck eggs. It doesn't name a tool because it can't. I'm a  civil servant and we can't do stuff like that. But it might be useful anyway, we'll see.  (edited to add: as I've written this, I've realised that this is the way that someone who is a P on the Myers-Briggs test may become more J)

As may be evident from this blog, I think a lot. And I must confess, it's not always ordered thinking. In fact most of the time my head is a mess of ideas and enthusiasm shooting off in different directions with little coherence and even less order.

Switching from an environment where ordered thinking was easy because the edges of where thinking was needed or required were very clear, to one where the exact opposite is true exasperated the problem. Massively.

And lots of good ideas are absolutely pointless if none of them ever get implemented, or more importantly articulated in a way where someone else could maybe pick them up and implement them for you.

So something needed to happen.

Oddly, the answer is a writers most feared nightmare inducing process. A blank page. I was given a project which left me so at a loss that I opened up a Google doc and called it [project name] thinking. Then I wrote everything I knew about the project down. Straight out of my head and onto the page without any order at all, exactly the way it was in my head.

Then I went back and started cutting and pasting sentences out and categorising them. Then broken those sections down into bullet points. And finally, pulled a list of tasks out from them.

From chaos, came order.

From this order then came the need to track the tasks. And since the project was a team effort, and contained many kinds of tasks for different members of the team, we needed to find a way to manage that too. So off I went on a mission to find such things, and lo! I found it. And shared it. And mostly it seems to be working very well though as we approach deadline day I must confess it is being used less and less.

But the deadline is only for the first iteration of the project and so we now have a neat record of all the tasks that require doing, in the second iteration and beyond! all headlined neatly by label type into categories, all tracked and all persistently heading towards the Done pile.

I've never had a Done pile. It's incredibly satisfying to dump things into that pile.

But most of all, I seem to have found a way which allows my very chaotic brain to be chaotic, revel in the chaos, but always to produce coherence that can be consumed without indigestion by everyone else.

This post written in the hope someone else may avoid the year of frustration I have recently experienced. We got there in the end :O)

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