Saturday, September 27, 2008

Getting my priorities straight (both with project team members and potty-coaching)

Yesterday I was working at the computer and keeping an eye on my almost 4 year old as she was playing nearby in the same room. She needed to take a potty break and is at the *fun* stage where even though she can do the whole business independantly, if I'm around she wants me to stay in the bathroom with her and help out, etc. I know, I know...I should cherish these moments, and I'll regret not enjoying this time more when she hits the stage where I am just not cool enough for her and she doesn't want to hang out with me anymore. But, I'll be honest, I was focused on what I was doing, frustrated that I had to stop, and impatient with her when she was in the bathroom.

She was finishing up, and I found myself nagging her with different tasks:

"Pull up your panties"

"Put the seat cover down"

"Wash your hands!"

"Flush the toilet!"

All those things she knows to do, but since I was in there I felt like I had to coach. I was so busy giving her more stuff to do, I didn't stop to think that I might have been confusing her with all these different tasks, that were actually not in logical order. She stopped for a moment and looked up at me with this look of such total confusion, so I slowed down and started over, this time being careful to be more patient and take it one step at a time.

I find myself in the same position both at home and at work, when I am given several tasks and told that they are all equally important. I don't know what to do first, what needs to be done when, and how to properly manage my time to make sure the important stuff gets completed at the right time. When I saw the way my daughter looked at me, I knew exactly what she was thinking and I've been through it enough times myself.

Fortunately I am not involved in potty training any of my project team members, I trust that they are all fully competant in that area. But, I do occasionally find myself sending over one email after another with this task or that, sometimes related sometimes not at all. I have to remember to stop and think that this puts my team members into that same position of frustration that both my daughter and I were in. I've been good lately, I sift through that list of tasks and send out another note (or even walk over to the person and discuss with them face-to-face...imagine, so low tech!) that will list all of the tasks in order of priority, with any other relevant notes that will help him/her figure out how best to get it all done, without going crazy.

Having just finished and thoroughly enjoyed reading "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams", I know the importance of happy, comfortable and focused team members. Since I didn't have a camera handy with my at the time, I'll have to make sure to keep the mental picture of my daughter looking up at me so confused and pin it up at my desk at work, to make sure I don't put any of my team members into that same frustrating position.


Robyn said...

Great post. I am a PM too and I can feel your frustration. Sometimes the job is overwhelming. You are so right... if you take a moment to get it all in order and prioritized, everything will run smoother.

Dina said...

Thanks Robyn
Yes, the experience with my daughter was definitely a good wake-up call to how important this is with project teams. Glad you liked the post!