"How to stop burning," or about the problems of the incoming flow of information of a modern person

    In the 20th century, the life and work of people went according to plan. At work (simplifying - you can imagine a plant), people had a clear plan for a week, a month, a year in advance. Simplifying: you need to cut 20 parts. No one will come and say that now it is necessary to cut out the parts 37, and besides, write an article with thoughts on why the form of these parts is just this - and preferably yesterday.

    In everyday life, people had about the same: force majeure was real force majeure. There are no cell phones, a friend cannot call you and ask “to urgently come to help solve the problem”, you live in one place almost all your life (“moving like a fire”), and you generally thought to help your parents “come in December for a week”.

    Under these conditions, a cultural code has been formed where you feel satisfied if you have completed all the tasks. And that was real. Failure to complete all tasks is a deviation from the norm.
    Now everything is different. Intellect has become a tool of labor, and in working processes it is necessary to use it in various forms. A modern manager (especially a top manager) goes through dozens of tasks of various types throughout the day. And most importantly, a person cannot manage the number of “incoming messages”. New tasks can cancel old ones, change their priority, change the very setting of old tasks. Under these conditions, it is almost impossible to formulate a plan in advance and then complete it in stages. You can’t answer the task “we have an urgent tax request, we must answer today, otherwise a fine” to say “I’ll plan for next week”.

    How to live with it - so that there is time for life outside work? And is it possible to apply some kind of working management algorithms in everyday, everyday life? 3 months ago, I radically changed the entire system of setting goals and controlling them. I want to tell you how I came to this and what happened in the end. The play will be in 2 parts: in the first - a little about, if I may say so, ideology. And the second is entirely about practice.

    It seems to me that the problem for us is not that there are much more tasks. The problem is that our socio-cultural code is still configured to perform "all the tasks planned for today." We worry when plans break, we worry when we do not fulfill everything that was planned. At the same time, schools and universities still operate within the framework of the previous code: there is a given set of lessons, there are well-planned homework tasks, and the child has a model in his head that suggests that life will continue to be the same. If you imagine the hard version, then in reality, in your English lesson they start talking about geography, the second lesson takes forty-five hours instead of forty minutes, the third lesson is canceled, and in the fourth in the middle of the lesson, your mother calls and urgently asks you to buy and bring home groceries.
    This socio-cultural code makes one hope that it is possible to change the incoming stream - and this is how to organize your life, and the life described above is abnormal, because it does not have a clear plan.

    This is the main problem. We need to realize and accept that we cannot control the number of incoming messages, we can only control how we relate to this and how we actually process incoming messages.

    Do not worry about the fact that more and more requests to change plans arrive: we no longer work on machines (with rare exceptions), letters do not go on a monthly basis (yes, I'm optimistic), and a landline phone has become an anachronism. Therefore, it is necessary to change the process of processing messages, and accept the current life as it is, and realize that the previous socio-cultural code does not work.

    What can we do to make it easier? It is very difficult to “make a good site”, but with a clear technical task (or at least just with a clearer description of the task) to achieve the correct result (and indeed, to achieve at least some result) becomes much easier.

    My best example, so I'll try to decompose my desires. I clearly understand that this is not happening with the processing of life and work plans: now it’s “bad”, but I want it to become “good”.

    What is “bad” and “good” at the “high” level of decomposition?

    Bad: I feel uneasy because of the uncertainty that I can do everything that I promised to do to other people or myself, I’m upset that I can’t get to things I have planned for a long time, because I have to put them off or because of the burning tasks, or it’s too difficult to approach them; I can’t do everything that’s interesting, because work and life take up most of the time, it’s bad because I can not devote time to my family and rest. A separate point: I am not in a constant context switching mode, from which, in many respects, all of the above occurs.

    Good: I don’t feel anxiety, because I know what I will be doing in the near future, the absence of this anxiety allows me to spend my free time better, I don’t feel a regular feeling of tiredness (the word “constant” does not suit me, it’s just regular), I don’t have to twitch and switch to any incoming communications.

    In general, much that I described above can be described with a simple phrase: "reduction of uncertainty and uncertainty."

    Thus, the technical task is something like:

    • Modification of the processing of incoming tasks - so that the context switches.
    • Work with the task setting system - so that at least current affairs and ideas are not forgotten and someday be processed.
    • Settling tomorrow's predictability.

    Before changing anything, I must understand what I can change and what not.

    The difficult and enormous task is to understand and acknowledge that I cannot change the incoming stream itself, and this stream is part of my life in which I ended up of my own free will; the pros of such a life outweigh the cons.

    Perhaps you, at the first level of solving the problem, should think: do you really want the place in life you found yourself in, or do you want something else? And if you think that you want something else, then perhaps it’s worthwhile to work out exactly this with a psychologist / psychoanalyst / psychotherapist / guru / call them by any name - this question is so deep and serious that I won’t go here.

    So, I am where I am, I like, I have a company of 100 people (I always wanted to do business), I do interesting work (this is interacting with people, including to achieve work goals - and I was always interested “Social engineering” and technology), business is built on “solving problems” (and I always liked being a “fixer”), I feel good at home. I like it here, with the exception of the "side effects" listed in the "bad" part.

    Given the fact that I like this kind of life, I cannot change (with the exception of delegating tasks, as described below) the incoming stream, but I can change its processing.
    How? I am a supporter of the concept that it is necessary to go from the smallest to the greatest - first solve the most painful, at the same time problems that can be solved with simple changes, and move on to bigger changes.

    All the changes that I made can be reduced to three directions; I will list them from simple (for me) changes to complex ones:

    1. Processing and saving tasks.

    I could never normally (and even now I can not) keep paper diaries, write down and formulate a task - it is very difficult for me, and sitting in some sort of tracker regularly is so hard.

    I accepted this, and my basic concept was that the things that I have in my head are the most important.

    Processing tasks took place in this mode:

    • the task that I remember about is to complete how the hands reach;
    • the incoming task - if done quickly, complete as soon as received, if done for a long time - promise that I will do it;
    • the tasks that I forgot about can only be done when they are reminded of them.

    A certain amount of time lived with this more or less normally, until the “tasks that I forgot about” turned into a problem.

    This turned into a problem in two ways:

    • Almost every day, the forgotten tasks arrived that needed to be done by the region today (the hardcore that finished it off from the bailiffs about debiting money from the traffic police fine before flying to the States and the urgent need to figure out if they would let me fly at all).
    • A huge number of people consider it incorrect to ask about the request and leave it to themselves. People are offended that you forgot something, if it is a personal request, and if it is a work request, it eventually turns into a fire that needs to be done today (see point one).

    There was something to do with this.

    No matter how unusual I was, I began to write down all the cases. That's all. I was lucky to think of it myself, but in general, the whole idea is very similar to the concept of GTD .

    The first step was simply to unload all the cases from my head into the simplest system for me. It turned out to be Trello : the interface is very fast, the task creation procedure is minimal in time, there is a simple app on the phone (I then switched to Todoist, but more on that in the second, technical part).

    Thank God, I’ve been doing management in IT one way or another for 10 years and I understand that “creating an application” is doomed, just like “going to the doctor”. Therefore, I began to break down tasks into decomposed tasks in the form of actions.

    I clearly understand that I am a person very dependent on a positive feedback, which I can give myself (if I see) in the form of a feedback “see how much you made today”. Therefore, the task of "going to the doctor" turns into the tasks of "choosing which doctor to go to," "choosing the time when you can go to the doctor," "calling and making an appointment." At the same time, I don’t want to strain myself: each of the tasks can be done on one of the days of the week and be satisfied that you have already passed some stage in the task.

    Key point: task decomposition and task writing in the form of short actions.

    As long as the task is in your head, while you think that it must be completed sometime, you will not be calm.

    If it is still not recorded and you forgot it, you will suffer when you remember it and remember that you forgot.

    This applies to all matters, including household ones: to leave for work and on the way to remember that I forgot to throw out the garbage is not at all cool.

    These experiences are simply not needed. Therefore, I began to record generally all cases.

    The goal is to, having trained in itself the unloading of all (absolutely all) cases into any tracker, the next step is to begin to stop thinking about the recorded cases in your head.
    When you understand that everything that you were thinking of doing is written down and sooner or later you get there, for me personally the anxiety goes away.

    You stop twitching because in the middle of the day you remember that you wanted to change the lights in the corridor, talk to an employee or write a document (and rush to write it urgently).
    By minimizing the number of forgotten (in this context, unwritten) tasks, I minimize the anxiety that occurs when I recall these most forgotten tasks.

    It’s impossible to write down and remember, but if there were 100 such tasks before, then by a certain moment there are 10 of them, and there are less “incidents” of anxiety.

    Key point: write everything, everything at all, even if you are sure that we will remember.
    I don’t remember everything: no matter how stupid it sounds, I record everything down to “walk the dog”.

    What did I decide this way? The anxiety from the fact that I was constantly afraid of forgetting something decreased (I sorted through the plans in my head, the tasks of the promise, etc.), and in general, the extra switching in my head about “thinking what else I could promise” disappeared.

    2. Reduced reactivity.

    We cannot reduce the incoming flow, but we can change the way we react to it.

    I was always a reactive person and got high from this, immediately answered a person’s request to do something by phone, tried to immediately fulfill the task posed in life or in everyday life, as a whole was as fast as possible, I felt high from it. This is not a problem, but it turns into a problem when a similar reaction turns into instinct. You stop distinguishing where you really need right now, and where people can very well wait.

    The problem is that negative feelings are also generated from this: firstly, if I didn’t have time to do something or forgot about what I promised to react, then again I was very upset, but this was not critical individually. This became critical at the moment when the number of tasks that I wanted to instantly instinctively respond to was more than the physical capabilities to do this.

    I began to learn not to respond immediately. At first it was just a purely technical solution: for any incoming request “please do it,” “please help,” “let's meet,” “let's call you,” I instead of reacting, and even instead of analyzing when I did it, was the first the task is to simply process this incoming request and plan when I will execute it. That is, the first thing in the tracker is not the task of fulfilling what was asked, but the task of “tomorrow reading what Vanya wrote in the telegram and understanding if I can do it and when I will do it, if I can.” The most difficult thing here is to deal with instincts: a huge number of people ask for a quick reaction by default, and if you are used to living in the rhythm of such a reaction, you feel uncomfortable if you did not answer a person’s request immediately.

    But a miracle happened: it turns out 9 out of 10 people who ask to do something “yesterday” may well wait until “tomorrow” when you get to their business, if you just told them that tomorrow you will get to him. This, along with recording the affairs and keeping the promises to get there, makes life so easy that it starts to seem to you that now you are living in a structured way (and maybe this is so). Of course, you need a lot of training, but, in fact, in the conditions when you have accepted such a rule for yourself, you can quickly learn this. And this enormously solves the problems of switching contexts and not fulfilling plans. I try to set all new tasks for tomorrow, all the requests that I reacted to earlier, I also put for tomorrow, and already tomorrow I figure out what can be done and when.

    3. Prioritization and fixing of sudden things.
    As I said at the beginning, I recognized for myself that the flow of tasks of each day is more than I can fulfill. A set of reactive tasks still remains. Therefore, every morning I deal with the tasks set for today: which ones really need to be done today, which ones can be transferred to tomorrow morning, to decide when they should be done, which ones should be delegated, and which ones can be thrown out altogether. But this is not the end of the matter.

    A huge frustration occurs when in the evening you realize that you have not done critical things for today. But most often this arises because today unplanned things have arisen, to which, despite the maximum efforts to postpone the reaction, it was necessary to respond today. I began to write down all the things that I did today, immediately after I did them. And in the evening I was looking at the list of completed tasks. The lawyer came to talk - wrote down, the client called - wrote down. An accident occurred, to which it is necessary to respond - recorded. The car service called and said that the car should be brought precisely today so that it would be repaired by Sunday, - wrote down. This allows both to understand why I did not get to the tasks set for today and not to worry about it (if the sudden tasks were worth it), and to fix it, where I could process incoming tasks less reactively (tell the service that I can’t do it and I will bring the car only tomorrow, and find out that it will be possible to do it by Sunday, even giving it tomorrow). I try to record absolutely all the completed work, up to “I signed two papers from the accounting department” and a minute conversation with a colleague.

    4. Delegation.
    The most difficult topic for me. And here I am even more likely glad to accept than give advice. I'm just learning how to do it right.

    The problem with delegation is the organization of delegation processes. Where these processes are built, we easily transfer tasks. Where processes are not debugged, delegation seems either too long (compared to when you do the task yourself), or simply impossible (no one else can perform this task for sure).

    This lack of processes creates a block in my head: I don’t even get the idea that you can delegate a task. Just a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to switch from Trello to Todoist, I caught myself on the fact that for three hours I was transferring tasks from one system to another, without even thinking that someone else could do it.

    The main experiment for me now is to overcome my own block and ask people to do something in those cases when I am sure that they will not agree or do not know how to do it. Spend time explaining. Accept that things will take longer. If you share your experience, I will be very happy.


    All of the above changes are described by completely technical recommendations for working with software, which I will write about in the next part, and in the conclusion of this one, about two traps that I fell into during this whole of my life reorganization.

    The concept of fatigue.
    Due to the fact that we are not working physically, but mentally, a huge and unexpected problem arises - to understand and catch the moment when you start to get tired. This makes it possible to take a break in time.

    The conditional worker behind the machine did not have such a problem in principle. Firstly, the feeling of physical fatigue has been clear to us since childhood, and in addition, it is quite difficult to continue to do something physically when the body is not capable of it. We can’t do 10 more exercises in the simulator to do another 5 “because it’s necessary”. This motivation will not work for obvious biological reasons.

    The situation with thinking is somewhat different: we do not stop thinking. I did not cut this sphere, but in general the hypotheses are as follows:

    • A person in constant frenzy does not immediately notice mental fatigue. This does not happen in the form of “I can’t think anymore, I’ll lie down” - at first it affects the emotional spectrum, the ability of thinking, then the perception, only here somewhere you can feel what has rolled.
    • In order to shut down from the flow, it is not enough just to stop doing work. I noticed that if, for example, I stop working, lie down and stare at the phone, I read, look and still the brain continues to work, the fatigue does not let go. It really helps to lie down and force yourself to do nothing at all (including poking into the phone). The first 10 minutes it is very difficult to get out of the flow of activity, the next 10 minutes a million ideas come to mind on how to do everything right, but then - it's already clean.

    It is important and you need to give the brain a rest, and since it is very difficult to catch this moment, you just need to do it regularly.

    Time for rest / life / family.

    I, as I already wrote, am dependent on a positive feedback, but I can generate it myself: this is both a bonus and a problem.

    From the moment I began to track all the tasks, I praise myself for accomplished ones. At some point, I got out of the state “settled my working life”, into the state of “now I am a superhero and I can do maximum things”, reaching 60 tasks a day.

    I balanced work and household chores and always inserted household chores into the daily list, but the problem is precisely what these are. And you definitely need time to relax and family.
    The worker is expelled from the workshop at 6 o’clock, and the entrepreneur also gets high when he works. It turns out about the same problem as with the inability to catch the moment of “mental fatigue”: when you get high from the tasks you complete, you forget that you really need to live.
    Falling out of the stream when everything works out and you get high from it is very difficult, you also have to force yourself.

    Fatigue comes not with the desire to “lie down”, but with a disorder of emotions (“everything infuriates in the morning”), difficulty in perceiving information, and a deterioration in the ability to switch contexts.

    It’s crucial to set aside time to rest, even if it’s very breakdown. It is important that this does not affect you later. It's not cool for two months to enjoy your performance, and then be in a state where everything is sick and tired and you can’t see people.

    In the end, we live not only for the sake of productivity, there are a lot of interesting and surprising things in the world;)

    In general, such approximate considerations as, in general, it is worth (re) to organize working and non-working processes. In the second part I will talk about what tools I used for this and what results were achieved.

    PS This topic turned out to be so important for me that I even started a separate telegram channel where I share my thoughts on this subject, join - t.me/eapotapov_channel

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