Systems Thinking

Last week, I experienced euphoria – legit, an entire high – reading a lesson in the Shift Nudge by Matt Smith course about how to organize project folders.

A mainstay in my writing about my work is not ever being really certain on what I should do or do next. Trying to use Trello as a task list or using Wunderlist as a project manager and the mounting levels of wasted time on “Am I doing this correctly?” or worse, “Oh wow, that really worked the last time I did it, but what did I do?”

It makes for painfully inconsistent levels of both work and output; being brilliant only goes so far and the rest is the processes that allow you to be efficient and consistent.

Searching for Structure

So I’m staring in the face of a work project and wondering how to organize things to make them easy to find, reference, or share with others I’m working with. Here I am, staring DuckDuckGo in the face and typing every iteration of “Project Folder Structures” I could think of.

About 10 minutes of searches in, a lightbulb went off and I searched through my lessons. There I found, “Here’s how I organize my folders for projects”.

Euphoria. Bliss. I felt tension leave my body and I remembered that I needed water and food. A quick adjustment to the notes I read and I had a nice solid structure that was easy to understand. I could stop thinking about how to organize the thing I wanted to do and get to the doing part.

I finally had a system to work with.

They Don’t Teach You This

My teacher used to say that the best education left you with a way to take things in and reframe them in ways that made sense to you. It doesn’t tell you what to think, but rather how.

The ability to create order out of chaos is something that I find (well, I suppose found) challenging. How does it work? Is it adaptable? Did I think about this thoroughly enough? How do I repeat this?

I’ve lost hours of time trying to think through these approaches only to end up with “Well, just try it out” and, while the experimentation is fun, it is hell on wheels for timelines of any kind. I thought about why this isn’t taught more and that led to a conversation with my good sis Danielle Evans.

When people teach you a system, they teach you methods that drive toward a particular result rather than how to think about what you’re doing. You end up with a lot of time spent trying to do what worked for someone and not what works for you.

It’s impossible to re-frame and when you end up in a situation like mine, where you suddenly have far more lateral decision-making power, you don’t know how to wield it.

Suddenly you go from, “I’ve learned something to accomplish a task” to “I need to create things that others can understand so they can help me accomplish a task.”

It’s not helpful and more than that, without teaching those bits on how to see and manipulate or create systems, you end up in situations where the process doesn’t fit the project and losing time in trying to find the right one.

If this isn’t in your professional development plans for the internal folks at your company, fix that ish.