From my archives, 2016/07/29:
This week has been hectic, and today was particularly busy. I found that there were tasks, problems, and other people’s schedules that I had to mentally juggle. I knew what I had to accomplish, but the bits and pieces were difficult to optimize in a way that satisfied me. Often I discovered the optimal solution when I was already down another, less optimal path. Clarity arrived too late.
Conventional wisdom states to change your plan as issues arise, since the best path is probably different as a result of these issues. The problem is that when it’s a particularly hectic day, issues are discovered at every turn. I have tried to adjust my plans as soon as something new came in, but I believe that today it resulted in half-assembled, less-than-ideal paths.
At the same time, blind action is clearly not the solution. A day full of busy work with no positive outcomes can hardly be described as productive. At best, you get lucky. At worst, you cost your team and organization valuable resources without any return.
Perhaps the best way to achieve clarity is a two-pronged approach. On one hand, one should practice strategic thinking and modifying memory regularly so that complex plans can be assessed with greater accuracy and fluency. On the other hand, recognize when these strategic and memory skills aren’t strong enough at that particular moment, and work with a combination of regular planning and pure execution.
For instance, instead of modifying plans on the fly whenever new issues arise, simply tally up the issues received in any given hour. During this hour, proceed as originally planned. At the end of each hour, take a good look at the collected issues, and carefully craft an updated plan that takes these new issues into account. Once that is done, proceed to the next hour.
This is the only one new strategy; I’m sure that there are some other techniques that can be tried out. For instance, multiple good paths with different goals can be identified at the start of the day, and work can be performed for all of these without concerning oneself with inevitable blocking problems.
The ultimate goal is to have the ability to hold massively complex mental models for executable action plans while being able to deliberately and confidently modify this plan in a robust way whenever new issues arise. Gaining the ability to do this takes discipline and experience, but I am willing to put in the work to acquire it.
Of course, it could simply be that I’m not being patient with myself and that I failed to take time to regularly reflect. I definitely felt like I was doing nothing but taking action. Perhaps my doctor’s breathing exercises can help here.
Okay, time for some action steps. I will investigate techniques for improving strategic and decisive thinking. I will also figure out how other successful people manage to lead complex organizations and consistently make enormous decisions correctly. And finally, it may be time to make regular meditation happen again.