Friday, October 02, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 4

Covered jars, grouping
Covered Jars
If you've just come across this four-part series, here are links to part 1, part 2 and part 3.

I noted is part 3 that decisions are made by groups as well as by individuals. Generally, we throw people into a room together, give them information, and ask them to make a decision...and then wonder why they can't make a decision and do it quickly.

First, groups work well together when they have time to get to know each other. Groups will sometimes engage in warm-up exercises or getting to know you exercises, and that is a start. However, being comfortable with each other and each other's style takes a lot longer than that. That learning about each other happens during meetings, in the hallway, and even over lunch. A group's ability to make decisions is honed as the groups makes small decisions (e.g., where to go for lunch) as well as big ones (e.g., which software to purchase).

Second, groups need to discover what role each person is playing in the group. There are a number of tests (e.g., Myer-Briggs) and other resources to help teams figure this out. What is your natural role on a team? Can you adopt a different role, if necessary, in order to bring a different perspective to the team? Can the team members voice this information to each other and keep it in mind as they work together?

Third, effective teams need to be able to be brutally honest with each other. Notice the "be able" in that sentence. You may not be brutally honest all the time ("I really hate that dress"), but you should be comfortable being brutally honest when it doing so helps the team and the decisions it is making. That ability does not happen overnight.

Fourth, teams need to have to-do lists, keep notes, etc., just like individuals do. They need to make guidelines, policies and procedures, which will cut down on the number of ad hoc decisions that need to be made.  (By the way, if you have guidelines for how something is to done, recognize that the  guideline outlines decisions that have already been made.)

Teamwork not only means that teams do work, but that it takes work to be a team. It also takes more work to be a team that can make decisions together and can do so with getting fatigued.

I hope this has been a worthwhile series for you to read. I know it has been a worthwhile series for me to write!  If you think others would benefit from it, please pass it along.


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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 3

Sculpture: Time to Let Go...
Time to Let Go...
If you've just come across this four-part series, here are links to part 1 and part 2.

In part 2, one of the resources was to a mind sweep exercise.  The mind sweep exercise can be considered the groundwork for the planning and review process, which we often fail to do well. I had a client years ago where the client project team was continually remaking the same decisions over and over again, because they had not fully planned their work. Imagine the stress of knowing that a decision is not final and that it will get re-discussed and re-made at every meeting?

As a corporate librarian, I frequently got into the office early and had 10-20 minutes before the start of the day to review and plan.  As a consultant, I generally used Sunday evenings as the time to look at the week again and get organized. As an academic, I have not set aside dedicated time for review and planning, which is impacting me. That time is important. During that time, we cannot only see what needs to be done, but also understand what decisions need to be made and by whom.

Let me focus on "by whom" for a moment. You know of decisions that need to be made, but do you know who is the correct person to make that decision? Does that person know that he/she is supposed to make that decision? Since more of our requests for decisions are made through email, be more purposeful in how to write them and in noting what the decision is and who is supposed to make it. If there are multiple people on the email, that let's everyone know that information and likely will relieve anxiety among those who wonder if the decision is theirs.

In addition to the mind sweep and specific times for planning/review, our minds need down time. That times when you aren't consciously making decisions. For me, that is time walking from here to there. Amazingly, even though I'm not consciously making decisions then, I will often find clarity on an issue or decision, and that was clarity that wasn't coming to me when my mind was filled with a myriad of different details.

Before this day ends, I want you to do two things. First, look at your calendar and find time in the next week to do a mind sweep and to do some planning (those might be two different events on your calendar). Second, go for a walk. It could be a walk around your building, up and down the stairs, or outdoors. Walk for five minutes (or more) and give your mind some down time. It will thank you for it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 2

Mason jar saladsWhen I recognized the tell tale signs this summer of decision fatigue in my life, I was seeing something that I'd heard about. I remembered reading about it, but I didn't that it applied to me. My first clue was that making lunch (to take to work) became a chore. I got over that hump by making Mason Jar Salads.And then decision fatigue returned this summer. Sigh.

Decision fatigue has a companion which is trying to keep track of too much in your head. Every team member, project manager and everyday human does this. And in our 24x7 world, with projects that get larger and longer, those details - and to-do's - are hard for your head to keep track of. You mind is constantly trying to ensure that it is remembering everything. For project managers, remembering "everything" is seemingly important because you never know when someone will ask you a question about the project. However, it's time to give your mind some help, so it will be less fatigued.

To do
My companion
When I became program director, I recognized that I needed to keep notes. For several months, however, I was inconsistent in where those notes were. Were the on my computer, my iPad, on the Internet, or what? I finally resorted to a medium that several of my colleagues had adopted: a notebook and I'm now on my third. When I'm in meetings, this is where I take my notes and that has helped.  In addition, I've gotten good at filing away into MS Outlook folders emails that I want (or need) to keep and keeping my hard drive organized by topic. Those three things have been "life savers" for me! Do I need to remember everything? No.  I just need to remember where to look.

By the way, a very practical example of this is my syllabus. I tell my graduate students that I will refer to the syllabus when they ask me a question about an assignment or about the class schedule. Why?  Because I've placed all the details in that document so I don't have to remember them. When I refer to the document, I know that I'll be consistent - okay, more consistent - in my answers.

Going back to the to-do list, if you're keeping a simple list and have not discovered how to better organize it OR how to better get all the to-do's on it, I highly recommend the book by David Allen entitled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  I've listened to the ebook version if twice and recently discovered his podcasts. I think podcast #3 (see below) is awesome! today's homework is for you to think about where you're keeping the information that you need to remember. Are you relying on your head? Could some of that information go on your device or on paper? If yes, adopt a tool (or tools) that you want to try out and give it a go.

Part 3 is coming tomorrow!


Note: I'm an Amazon Associate, which means if you click on the Amazon link and make a purchase, I'll get a tiny commission. Tiny. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 1

signs point to yes
A magic 8 ball
Decision fatigue.

We've all felt it, but likely have not realized that it is a real thing. Decision fatigue is when your mind (and I think also emotions) get tired from making decisions.  What decisions? All those decisions that we make each day:
  • What time to get up?
  • What to wear?
  • Which emails to answer?
  • How to do ____, which clearly needs to get done?
  • What advice to give _____?
  • Whether to go to the copier first or go to the bathroom first?
  • Where to go for lunch?
  • Whether to talk to _____ or ignore him?
  • Turn left, turn right or go straight?
We make fun of people who eat the same thing for lunch every day or who only wear black, but they are eliminating decisions and helping their brains have more energy for other - and let's hope more important - decisions.

Yes, this about all of those projects that we're doing!

I've been working on a huge project, as well as being an academic program director, a professor, and a person with a life outside of work. I have found myself weary not because of the the work itself, but because of all of the decisions that the work includes. For example, my project includes a 200+ page document, which I'm editing. Every edit...every a decision. Yesterday that was easily over 100 decisions. Sadly, the chemicals in your brain are used the same for small decisions (put a comma there?) as well as large ones (what needs to go into the talking points?). And those chemicals need to be refreshed.

If you're like me and feeling fatigued from all of the decisions you're making, I want you to do three things and then be sure to read parts 2-4 of this series, which will be published later this week. The three things are:
  1. Acknowledge that the day is full of a multitude of decisions (as well as information to remember) and promise to learn how to lessen their impact.
  2. Update your to-do list with everything that you need to be doing. I co-mingle home, personal and work items on one to-do, but you might want to create separate to-do lists.  (Okay...yes, something there is a very home-orientated to-do list on the refrigerator!) As new to-do's appear, add them to your list. And...yes...get ALL of those project to-do's on the list!
  3. Find places where you can stop making decisions. Can you begin to create routines that eliminate decisions? No, you don't have to eliminate every decision, but you might be able to eliminate a few.

Related Articles:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Article: What Ever Happened to Google Books?

Digitization in progressTim Wu writes:
Today, the project sits in a kind of limbo. On one hand, Google has scanned an impressive thirty million volumes, putting it in a league with the world’s larger libraries (the library of Congress has around thirty-seven million books). 
I remember when everyone was talking about Google Books. It grabbed our imaginations. As a digitization consultant, I thought it was something we'd be able to learn from. However, the ability to scan millions of books ran into the reality of authors' rights.

If you've not thought about this project for a while, this article sums it all up nicely. Of course, what it doesn't say is whether we'll ever get the access to those 35,000,000 volumes in the way that we want.