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Doing the Unstuck (TESTHEAD)

On May 29, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Recently, I came to a conclusion that was unavoidable. I was paralyzed by too many things, too many commitments, and too many good intentions that I just couldn’t get any traction on. I am frequently the victim of “analysis paralysis” because so many things end up getting clogged and feel like they are impossible to make any real movement. This makes me feel more frustrated, and instead of making forward progress, I actually slip back and get even more mired. In short, I get stuck in my own psychic mud.

I find it most aggravating when I know someone else is waiting on something from me. What often happens is, I know we have something I need to do, I know I want to get it done, but I don’t really have the time to get it done, or so I think. What happens? I psychologically start distancing myself from that person or group, I start avoiding what I need to do, and thus I get farther and farther behind, and the vicious cycle continues.

Ah, but I’m not here to talk about the vicious cycle, I’m here to talk about breaking it. For me, the easiest way to do it is to include the person or group in the very thing I am stuck in and make sure they are part of the conversation. For me, recently, Skype has proven to be my best piece of “psychic WD-40”. How so? Instead of sitting around waiting for a problem to fester, I instead use Skype to reach out to the person or group that’s not getting the attention, ask them to work with me to set a time (or better yet, right then and there, if they can) and help me get unstuck.

For many people, this is a really hard step. Why? It means we have to admit that we are wrong, or that we are lacking in self-management or time-management skills, or some other deficiency that we have not been able to resolve. It means we have to admit to our fallible humanity. To all of that, my best recommendation is to say to yourself and everyone else… so what? I’m human, I’m fallible, I make mistakes, and occasionally, I bite off more than I can chew. Sometimes it comes down to realizing we don’t know something we think we should, and we will expose ourselves as being foolish or stupid. Well, guess what? We all are ignorant, foolish or stupid at some point.

Freely admitting it, and getting help from those who we are supposed to be doing something for is the best way to break that log jam. It has two major effects. First, it allows you to focus on the issue, and second, it allows the person or group who you are doing the service for to help make sure you are working with the correct information or understanding to be successful. Ultimately, people don’t care if you get it right the first time, as long as you get it right in a reasonable time frame and help solve the mutual problem.

So if you find yourself on the hook for something, and you feel stuck in trying to deliver it, stop… breathe, and then get on Skype, or chat, or pick up the phone, or whatever immediate tool is at your disposal (key word here is “immediate”), and work with that person to get unstuck. Sure, your pride will take a little beating, but seriously, would you rather be proud, or would you rather be done?

 

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