It’s two in the morning and you had a “nap” while putting the kids to bed. Sleeplessness follows and at the end of 110 solid minutes of frustrated tossing and turning, something comes screaming out of your subconscious:
- the other way to layout those controls
- the perspective shift needed to win that argument
- the high-school math technique for finding a better metric
- the searing hot knife of an insight to a problem you’ve been facing
Except it’s not now that you’re facing it. It was last Friday. If you recall, the conversation was a little tense. The deadline was looming and your stress response was in overdrive because you didn’t have the perfect answer right then. All you felt in the moment was a basic human response: fight or flight.
Here’s the secret:
That stress only comes from one place - your own internal expectations.
Sure others may be expressing things like their needs, or their feelings or whatever, but the demands that a problem be fixed by your shining creative talents and technical abilities right this instant is rarely part of the request. Break it down. Even if someone with towering authority is screaming “I need to know when this will be fixed, right now”, you still have room for asking loads of other questions:
- what does “fixed” look like to you?
- do we understand what led to this?
- what kind of resources does this problem merit?
- is there a timeframe you have in mind already?
- what will you do with that date when you have it?
- does solving this go ahead of other priorities?
There’s even a decent chance they don’t have any attachment to the solution or it’s qualities. There’s a date to meet and they’re under other pressures you are blissfully unaware of. Take a second and dig into those other areas. Discover as much as you can about he problem before stampeding to the response.
In the end, you can still say, “I don’t have the solution right now, but I’ll have an update for you tomorrow.” Sleep on it and leave room for an unscheduled insight.