Saturday, April 28, 2018

Heuristics for Working: Self

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.


Remember that you only know what you know. You will make choices and decisions that prove to be incorrect.

Just because the outcome wasn't good, it doesn't necessarily mean (some of) your actions weren't good. 

Ask whether you can credit yourself despite the way things turned out.

Separate the idea from its implementation. The idea isn't bad just because the approach you chose isn't working.

Recognise that you won't always get it right. Forgive yourself. But try to learn from it

Do you really have to make the best decision at the right time? Or is it enough to make a reasonable decision at a good time, given everything that you know? 

Separate the idea from the person. You don't like their idea but it doesn't mean you don't like them.

Just because you don't like a person it doesn't mean their idea has no value.

Cut yourself some slack. But be sensitive to others.

Separate the idea from yourself. Disinvest yourself from the idea and you are freer to take criticism of it, and to criticise it yourself.

Be critical of yourself, but only when you have a positive motivation and mindset.

Remember that you only know what you know. But also ask what else there might be to know, and where you might find it, if you felt it was valuable to know it at this point.

Be wary of rushing to comparison. You see the whole of yourself and the surface of others.

When you want to learn to do something, take every opportunity to practice it. Don't wait for the perfect opportunity to come up.

Feeling pain is a prompt to step back and reconsider your approach.

Boredom can be pain. Lack of results can be pain. Repetition can be pain. 

Waiting can be pain. Worrying can be pain. Pressure can be pain.

Your pain might not be my pain.

Stepping back does not mean that you have to change. Only that you're considering it.

Actions have positive, negative and neutral consequences, and costs.

Not acting is also an action.

The consequences and costs look different from someone else's perspective.

Most of the systems you work in are complex, and changes to them are gambles.

Not changing is also a gamble.

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