Strike back!

Here I am, sitting in my sofa legs up. Resting? Yes, but not voluntary. Sport is healthy they always say, not for me this weekend. While playing soccer I hurt my quadriceps. Diagnosis: 3 months out. 

I love to sport. I play soccer, jog from time to time and when soccer season is over I ride my bike. But this season is not my lucky one. It already started while preparing for first soccer training in July. My knee hurted so I could not run as often as I wanted. Cycling was ok, but that is not the same. By the start of the soccer season, I knew immediately how late it was. I had not the condition I intended to have. So I struggled to keep up with my opponents in the first games and everything hurted. But I had a plan. I started with some easy jogging sessions after every training and game. That way my basic condition went up and my muscles recuperated better. Doing so, I managed to get better and ready for the start of the competition. We won the first game and I played the whole 90 minutes without a problem. So my advice: never give up!

But my luck did not lasted long. In the second game, I hurt my self in a fight for the ball. I managed to finish the game but I had to watch from the side for the next 8 weeks. But ok, there are worse things that can happen. I did whatever I could to prepare my comeback and I enjoyed it. Normally I am not a fan of jogging during winter but I really liked it. It was nice to be moving again.

As I said, it is not my lucky season. We are 2 months later after my comeback and I am laying here, writing a short story about my season. The moment I felt something in my quadriceps I knew it was more or less the same as last time. It appears it’s even worse so my season is over. I am disappointed. Not in myself or my muscles. No, just disappointed I can’t play the last games of the season. Disappointed that I can’t move a lot for some time.

But no worries, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. I can watch my teammates play and win some more games. I have some extra time to do some stuff I like but did not have the time to do. Revalidation started yesterday, so I’ve set myself a target. I want to be ready for cycling season by the end of soccer season. By doing so, I will be able to build a good basic condition for coming soccer season.

So what did I learn from all this? Never let bad things strike you down, always strike back and enjoy the opportunities!

Concentration, concentration, concentration.

How many times it happens you are reading something and after a couple of minutes you’re wondering what you were reading? I guess it won’t only happen when reading but also while talking to someone and even when driving your car!

I have to be honest that it happens a lot to me. Sometimes I have to re-read the same sentence twice because my mind was taking me to another place. It is strange, like my mind wants to go one and I am not ready for it. After a while, you notice that you are in another atmosphere and forgot everything of the last couple of minutes. I’m often wondering whether I am the only one who has this ‘experience’? When I am talking to someone, is he or she also getting lost in thinking about other things or is it just me? It is not that I do not respect what the other person is saying, but my mind wants to take the next step. Even if I am not ready for it. Before moving on, I want to make one thing clear. There is an important difference between losing your concentration in a discussion and just not being interested. When someone is not interested, that person doesn’t even start listening. When you are interested, you listen but your mind does not take note of what is being said. Maybe the other person has said something so important that your brain already starts processing ideas about this topic.

Most of the time, you are not concentrated because you did not empty your brain before starting a new task. Your brain is made for creativity and not for remembering stuff. If you try to remember all sorts of stuff, you’ve got a higher chance of being less concentrated. That is why I jot down my ideas as fast as I can in services like Evernote and Omnifocus. When I think of a topic for a blogpost, I store it in Omnifocus. By doing so, my mind is free to discover other interesting topics and to live with more focus. Need to call a friend when arriving at home, store it in Omnifocus and let it remind you at home. Simple things with an amazing impact! But after all, give your mind a break. In the rushing time we live in, you need to make time to take a break.

What can you do about it?

  • Take a break whenever you can.

  • Read about concentration and focussing on what you are doing at this moment. I recommend blogs like Time Management Ninja by Craig Jarrow and Productivityist by Mike Vardy. Or read the book from David Allen about GTD, this goes beyond our topic but will help you in being more focussed.

  • Do the things you like and enjoy. Passion leads to focus.

Are you a resource?

Last week I was listening to a podcast about agile development, ’This Agile Life’. They had an interesting discussion about people being resources and why that is so wrong. Are you often described as a resource? How does that feel?

To be honest, I do not like to be called a resource. But the fact is that I’m often called like that. But as stated in the podcast, it started all wrong with calling the HR-department ’Human Resources department’. Who has invented this? We are not resources you can dig for. We are not resources you can grab from somewhere and sell for money. No! We are humans! We are people that can think for themselves an have the right to be called by our name. As long as there are resources, they can be replaced. Ever tried to replace a human, a colleague?
Hard, isn’t it? Old-Hundred-Gold-Mine-Tour-Taste-and-Tell-03
We are aware that children, relatives and the ones we love can’t be replaced with a resource. But still we seem to think we can do this at work. We love to make estimations, count available resources and move them between teams like playing a board game. But what we tend to forget is that even at work, people are very important. Since we have our own ideas, we interpret stuff in a different way. This means that the tasks we do, will be accomplished in a different way and with different speed than if it were done by someone else.
What I see at work is that we make estimations for the tasks we think we will do in the coming weeks. When one of my colleagues drops sick, we look for a replacement in the form of another resource. We need someone to finish a task, estimated two days by our sick colleague. No problem, the other team has some spare time so they can miss a resource for two days. Guess what happened? After two days, the task hasn’t been finished and what was already done did not fit with the principles of out team. How come? Simple, the guy replacing our colleague interpreted the assignment differently and did not know our principles. When you reassign a task to someone else, their is always the risk that estimations are not correct anymore. We know that, but we keep believing that we can get away with this. I can assure you, that is not the case. In the almost 3 years I’m working now, I’ve never seen someone finishing a task of someone else at the same speed as that other person. We tend to say that it are only estimations, but that is not true. We are so focused on numbers that estimations are seen as real promises. If I do not finish the task within estimated time, someone will be mad about it.
Who’s fault is this? The HR-department. They should work with us as we are people, but instead they are counting us and figuring out how much resources they can keep with the money they get from higher end. I’m not saying numbers are useless. They can be useful to learn from. And of course money is important so there should be someone to guard how much we cost. But there are other ways to do that. Focusing on effectivity for example.
So I will tell people to no longer call me a resource. I can think, i can speak and I can sleep. That is why I have the right to be called upon my name. My name is Bart, not resource.

What can you do about it?

  • Rename your HR-department to ’People-department’. (I’ve got this from the podcast ’This Agile life’)
  • Do not replace your colleague when he or she is sick, but find someone who can help you to take over some tasks of your co-worker.
  • Add a couple of hours to your estimations so that someone else at east has the time to check in what timespan he can deliver what you promised.

Do you dare to make the decision?

Go for it!

When was the last time you came out of a discussion with the feeling everything is clear and everyone knows what to do? Did everyone noted down the decisions?

What I see is that many people are afraid to make the decision. When you take a decision, you are responsible for that decision. If something goes wrong, you get the blame for taking that wrong decision. But what is the problem with making a wrong decision? What can happen? I guess the world will not go down and nobody will die? What did you lose with making that bad decision? We should focus on the fact that someone decided to take action and resolve the problem. If that goes wrong, at least he or she tried. Making mistakes is human and teaches us what is good and what is wrong. If you do not make the decision, you don’t know if it will work, you lose time and still nothing is solved.
When you make a decision, make it visible. Take care that the decision is clear for everyone. Note it down on a sheet of paper so that others can see this and know you will follow up on the decision. Avoid decisions like this: “We will sell the machine soon, everyone should stop using it but in the meanwhile keep maintaining it with the lowest cost you can.” This is not a decision. It is just a marketing trick to let people think someone listened to them and supports their idea. But in fact the real decision is postponed. The real decision would be: “We sell the machine by date x so person A places an add and is empowered to determine the price for it”.
How many people do you need to make the correct decision? Simple. Only one. The best way to initiate good and quick decision making is to let people do it themselves. They will ask help to the people they need if you let them be responsible for their own decision. If you need to set up a meeting to make a decision, wait for other people to convince their bosses and make a detailed analysis of the consequences, you are lost. Everything has consequences so they are not relevant. If I take this action, x will happen and y will be buried deep in the ground. If I don’t take this action, nothing will happen. Simple as that.
Will you take the decision next time? I will.$

What can you do about it?

Formulate a clear statement. A statement that can be answered with yes or no is ideal.
Do not hesitate to make the decision. Just go for it.
Appreciate people who take decisions and support them when it goes wrong. Learn from them and make your own decisions.

People are like angry wolves.

People are like angry wolves

When was the last time you helped someone? When was the last time you helped someone without fearing he would return the next day with the same question?

People always want more and they want it quicker. When someone asks me to help him, I always intend to do so. Just because it is in my nature, as is with many people.
That is a good thing, I think. They thank me for helping them out and it only took me 15 minutes to make him happy. Yes, I did it. Back to my own work.
The next day is passing by and there he is: ”You did a great job yesterday, can you help me out with something else?” What do you answer? Happy to be appreciated you accept to help so: ”What can I do for you?”
What do you think the guy will ask next? Well it’s simple, he will ask the same as before but two times as difficult and of course in the same timespan. That is not what I wanted. Can I still get out, or should I just make the best of it and be smarter next time? Most of us will take the second choice and go for it. But they will keep in mind this lesson. Next time someone asks to help, they will ask something in return. They will ask for something to make up for the time they lost.
Time lost for helping someone else? Yes, indeed. People will feel it that way. It is a human reaction. Some of us will resist and continue to help people without return. Is it wrong to ask something in return? No! Is it wrong to ask someone for help? No! What to do then? When I ask something I try to help the other person as much as possible with my own question. I’ll try to provide them something in return. I will ask if he can show me how I can do it myself. So people are like angry wolves. They will distrust someone who asks for help, they will always ask for more but eventually they will live together and sort it out.
I will continue to help other people. Do you?


What can you do about it?

  • Be respectful when you reach out for help by engaging yourself. You ask for help, you are not delegating tasks.
  • Continue to help people by explaining how they can do it themselves.