The other day I realized what it is to be on the other side of the fence. In this case, in the shoes of the research assistants that have been working with me over the years.
And this is the insight: the grass IS greener!!
At least in some respects. Let me explain.
Over the years I have been struggling not only to keep my email at bay (unsuccessfully as I discussed in a previous blog) but also to give timely feedback to those working with me (students, research assistants, PhDs, etc). Let us call them X.
In my other life: The Sloth
The way that it would usually go would be something like this:
Day 1: X and me (the sloth for illustration purposes) would have a meeting and discuss what needs to be done
Day 2 (or 3 at most): X would be happy working on the assignment, hopefully, grateful to have received some feedback (finally, I may add). Me, in the meantime, I would be happy because I have finally been able to check that box in my to-do list that said that I needed to meet with X.
Day 3: X sends me the assignment, asking for feedback and a meeting. My happiness has lasted between 24 to 48 hours. The to-do is back again on my list.
I need to find time again to read what X has sent and book a meeting. Oh well!. I look at my agenda and….I do not have time until …ooops, three weeks from now?
In the meantime, X has sent me 3 revised and updated versions of the document that I need to read. And in some cases, I would have mistakenly read and commented one of the old versions of the document.
X’s turnaround: 24 hours My turnaround: 24 days
In my current life…: The Hare
I came to this insight the other day. I had been waiting for some feedback from my current boss at the conservation organization for a couple of weeks. She had been extremely busy with meetings and addressing work emergencies, working during weekends and nights, and still not being able to catch up with work. Does it sound familiar?
In the meantime, I had not been idle. I was working on other tasks that were also important for the report that we are producing. But it is also true that I was eagerly waiting for her feedback to move on with a survey that we need to conduct.
Finally, I had THE message in my inbox. Yabadabaduuuuuuu!
Needless to say that I couldn’t wait to open it. I browsed through the comments, checked that they were all very doable and set immediately to the task of revising the document according to the suggestions.
Less than 24 hours later, I was done. Taraaaaaa!
I wrote the email, attached the document…and click. There it went back to my boss.
I then turned the sand clock and waited (again) for the other chess player to move the piece.
It was just at that moment -when pressing the enter key- that I realized what my boss would feel when receiving the email AND what the ones working with me have been probably feeling for years:
This bittersweet feeling of the work done and the knowledge that it will take a while (AGAIN) to give / get some feedback. And so the cycle begins…
Lessons for the future?
Being on the other side of the fence I realize how incredibly frustrating it is to be waiting for such a long time for feedback to move on. And I appreciate (even more) how patient those working with me have been.
To those of you -X’s- that are reading this blog (and I know that there are a few) A HUGE THANKS!
Having time to turn around the tasks and check items in the to-do list is extremely invigorating. You feel good about yourself and your work. You can tap yourself in the back before going to bed thinking “mission accomplished”.
In contrast, large to-do lists and full agendas are not a good combo. It only generates frustration for yourself and those working with you. Sleepless nights and endless stress. The solution is plain and simple, right?:
- Fewer projects
- Smaller teams
- Space in the agenda every week for such follow-ups and
- Prioritize giving feedback to those that depend on it to move on
Needless to say, job downgrading does this automatically for you. And it is enticing.
But, if that is not possible, being more strategic and selective with the projects one chooses to be involved could also work. Not a breakthrough thought I admit. But one that I have been struggling to put to work in real life.
Even though I say NO, much more often than I did in the past, I say yes, much more often than I should. Still.
In the end, LESS IS MORE.
And it seems that MORE ENDS UP BEING LESS. Don’t you agree?