For a while now I've been collecting fieldstones on the topic of heuristics for working. Some of these are things that I've said to others, some of them are things that I've thought about when considering some aspect of myself or how I work, and others have come from books I've read, talks I've attended, and workshops I've participated in.
I've made a handful of rough categorisations and I'll put each set in a post under the tag Heuristics for Working.
But what do even I mean by heuristics for working? Good question. I mean rules of thumb for situations that arise in the workplace. They are bits of advice that can be useful to consider but don't offer any guarantees and will not always apply.
The collection is surely idiosyncratic, context-sensitive and perhaps too specific and too general in turn. Welcome to my head. I haven't sat down and tried to elaborate or enumerate more, or to try to fill the gaps. Everything here has arisen and been noted in the moment, although a good chunk of it is stuff that I've thought about in the past too.
Of course, having heuristics doesn't mean that I remember to use them, or pick a reasonable one when I do remember, or make a good choice when I have remembered and picked a reasonable one. That's part of the rich tapestry, isn't it? At least externalising them and listing them gives me an opportunity to try to understand and maybe change the way I work, the way I am biased, or the way I want to be.
Along the way, I got to wondering if there's one overriding heuristic, one heuristic to rule them all, a meta heuristic. If there was, I think it might run along these lines:
Question your heuristics.I hope there's something interesting and perhaps even helpful here for you.
Find your principles and stick to them.
But change them when they stop serving your needs.
And think carefully about imposing them on anyone else.
Be strong, supportive, and selfless.
Be fascinated, fragile, and fallible.
Provide motivation, organisation, innovation.
Be prepared to jiggle.
And when you are inconsistent (and you will be) try to be aware of it.
And call it out yourself.
And justify it, if it's justifiable.
Be slow to judge.
Try to demonstrate the kinds of behaviour that you'd like to see.
Consider both actual and meta.
Consider both equity and equality.
Consider both outcomes and outputs.
When it's your meeting be there first and ready to start at the meeting start time.
When it's your meeting have an agenda; in your head even if not written down
But ideally written down.
When it's your meeting set the context, briefly, so that everyone who is attending is at the same place.
When it's your meeting aim for a concrete end point, and for it not to run over.
When it's not your meeting, arrive on time.
When it's not your meeting, be cautious about leaving late to arrive late at your next meeting.
(In particular, If I'm missing a 1-1 I will need a very good reason to stay in your meeting.)
Regularly wonder why you are so interested in the temporal economics of meetings.
Regularly decide that you value your time, and the time of others. (Not necessarily in that order.)
Asking "why?" can sound like an accusation. Perhaps try "what motivated ...?" or "what did you hope to achieve with ...?"
Back a person who made a decision in good faith based on thought and the evidence that was available.
Even if the decision proves to be a bad one.
Consider asking the data question.
You are a person; are you also the problem?