Dealing with large tasks

Are you facing a large and complex task? Sometimes it’s hard to even get started, right?

A natural response would be to start analyzing the task searching for the most efficient way to deal with it. But it’s easy to over engineer a solution, and for me this is never the most efficient approach. I simply don’t (yet) know enough about the task to do this kind of thinking up front.

This is why I prefer to start with the smaller tasks that I actually do know how to deal with – without giving the bigger picture much though. I move on, one (sub)task at the time. This seems to work magic. I now naturally know the next natural step, and can create more (sub)tasks. All of a sudden, the large and complex task seems manageable.

I know this sounds trivial, but it’s really about the mindset. Of course, you have to put some thought into it, but over analyzing a task before you start working on it is waste. Instead, start with what you do know, and make it a habit to split tasks early if it’s too big. It’s better to do this early than late.

Every now and then you will get stuck in a task, because you made wrong assumptions. When this happens it’s hard to take a step back and start over (the right way). This is a muscle you have to train, so make sure you reward yourself whenever you manage to do so.


One word: Feedback

With all the different management models out there, chances are you’ve come across a model that can help you solve or improve a particular problem. From a bird’s perspective, they might look simple, but to fully grasp how to apply them in your organization, you need a deeper understanding than you can get from only reading a book. You need hands-on experience.

This triggers a question: How do you apply a generic model you don’t even understand the complete extent of, to a specific situation of high complexity?

Normally, when you get a question like this, you know you won’t get an answer in just one sentence. But the answer can be rather simple, actually just a single word: Feedback.

It doesn’t matter what the model is for and what it is designed to solve, but once you decide to give it a try, remember this: Get the feedback you need, as fast as you can, so that you’re able to take corrective actions. The more complex the situation is, the faster you need feedback.

No feedback is synonymous with failure, and the model certainly won’t do you any good. You need hands-on experience and you need feedback, that’s how you truly understand how to apply the model.

How to boost your personal productivity? (English version)

A while ago, I wrote a blog post in Norwegian about how to improve your personal productivity, by combining Personal Kanban and Pomodoro. This blog post was recently published as an article, in English, by ProgramUtvikling in their magazine – The Developer (No 1, 2012).

Read the full article: The-Developer-1-2012.pdf
(Page 12-16 according to table of contents, page 7-8 in the PDF.)

Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Page 1
Page 2

Please note that you always can read the latest number of The Developer here.

How to boost your personal productivity?

I published a new blog post on the company blog; “How to boost your personal productivity?”. It describes a combination of Personal Kanban and Pomodoro, and how this works well for me.

It’s written in Norwegian, and you can read it in full-length here:

For my English-speaking readers, I recommend reading the article that inspired me to combine these techniques:

Who’s your safety valve?

I love what I’m doing, I can actually be pretty passionate about things, and if I really believe in something my first instinct would be to let others know how this can make their lives, jobs, projects – you name it – better. But if you ask people I have worked with over the years, I guess they would characterize me as quite calm and diplomatic.

So how does these traits go along? In the beginning of my career I could burst out with things every now and then. Luckily no irreversible mistakes were made, but occasionally it was a bumpy ride. Now, even though my face might turn red, verbal and written outbursts are far less frequent – actually almost completely absent. I’m still passionate about things, but the difference is that now I have a safety valve.Outburst

My safety valve is a trusted person I can share my thoughts and ideas with. Even more important, I can share my frustrations openly with this person. When heated I use my safety valve to read through e-mails and documents before I fire off something I will later regret. The safety valve is most likely sitting somewhere nearby, and sometimes, depending on the situation, several people can act as my safety valve – maybe covering different areas.

Even though I have my safety valve right next to me, I always reflect a few seconds, on my own, before sharing my frustrations. I work with different customers and need to take confidentiality issues into consideration, so it’s not a given that everything can be shared with everyone. As the relationship with my safety valve develops there is room for discussing almost everything. To build a safety valve relationship, get comfortable sharing thoughts and ideas, before moving on to frustrations.

One last thing, the safety valve system works better if it’s bidirectional, so make sure both get the opportunity to vent. Call it bidirectional coaching, if you like.

Do you have a safety valve?