November 17, 2015

Conscious unlearning for coping

Marja Leena Pinomaa

Marja Leena Pinomaa, Head of Enterprise Feedback Management, Acting Head of Customer Experience and Insights, Tieto

“Mom, I have an important thing to share with you. Please listen to me!”
“Darling, please give me a second! First I need to finish this.”
“No, mom. Now! I need you now! NOW! Do you hear me?!?”

Anything familiar? Yes, I believe. Probably many of us have faced similar situations with own kids, spouses, pets, etc. Just wanting to do only ONE more thing before focusing on something else. And then there is another “one thing” coming in. And another… So, a continuous flow of new things to be handled - and YOU in the middle of everything, trying to juggle the lot. Maybe you are also wondering when it would be easier, with less rush and less stretching in different directions.

In my experience the old times felt less hectic. Probably it was because of being single and being able to focus only on myself outside of work.  I was very work-oriented, one could even say a workaholic. If I needed to work longer days, I just did it - without any need to organize any baby-sitting, dog walkers, transportation to kids' hobbies etc.

These days it is like running continuously, not having proper time for anything and having often a feeling of inadequacy. And to be honest, I have only myself to blame, as I always want to have everything under control and do things perfectly, with high quality and on time. If I don’t successfully manage something, it is on my mind all the time. I also have some challenges to ask for help from others. All this is inbuilt in me. Is it the same with you?

How to change inbuilt habits and characteristics?

To cope with managing my time, I’m trying to practice a few things – both in my work and personal life. There is nothing new in these things, but sometimes we just tend to forget them.

1. Less perfect is often enough: Many times you probably set the high standards by yourself. Stop continuous fine-tuning as it is endless and may take a lot of time. All people make mistakes. Let yourself be one of those people – as long as it doesn’t endanger anything or anyone!

2. Say “no”: This is a really hard thing if you like helping others. Often your friend or colleague also knows that you are ready to help. No one else says “no” on behalf of you – you yourself need to do it!

3. Time takes care of many things: Try to find out whether a thing is really urgent or important. Sleep over it if possible. Park it in the bottom of your to-do list. I’ve noticed that quite often an important thing just fades away and no one will ask for it later.

4. Delegate and don’t try to have everything under control all the time: Share responsibility and trust that people will take on the responsibility. Do not monitor their doings all the time. You might be surprised how they succeed. This may also increase the positive atmosphere within your work community – and at home.

5. Steal with pride: We do not need to invent everything from scratch by ourselves. Re-use others’ inventions and develop them further if needed – as long as you don’t violate any copyrights, for example. This can release a lot of your effort for more important things. One work-related example: use a ready-made template to set the table of contents for your document and put your effort in the content itself. This will probably also increase the quality of your outcome.

6. Ask for help: There is nothing wrong in admitting that you cannot manage something. Go and ask for help. It doesn’t cost anything to ask and the counterpart has always a chance to say “no.” You might even make that person happy with your request as many of us are eager to share things and help others. It is not just so easy to foresee in time if someone really needs your help.

7. Look first for positive aspects of a change instead of immediately resisting: Change is continuous. Typically the first reaction is resistance, especially if its’ adoption requires any extra effort from you. Try first to find positive aspects in the change and identify motivation through them. Ask from others if you cannot find any.

8. ‘Unlearn’ to release your capacity to learn: We all have lots of routines, ways of working and habits, which have developed over time. Have you ever stopped to think whether some of them could be changed or even discarded? Unlearning requires a conscious decision, I believe. Challenge first your own habits and only after that, other people’s habits.

All of the above requires conscious and continuous attention as they don’t happen automatically – at least not for me. However, if you manage to practice at least some of them, I can guarantee your own life will be better in your own hands. Where would you start? I think today, I will focus on the point #7 as there are currently some things in my work requiring a change in my current habits…

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