There's pretty much always some opportunity to be had when a hassle comes up.
The world isn't so simple as to be able to divide people into camps... but I do see roughly three camps of people in how they deal with hassle.
Camp 1: "Oh boo hoo, why does this always happen to me? Life is so hard and unfair..." - I don't have much to say about that one, obviously we all know some people like that, and obviously that attitude is super-destructive. Not much more need be said about it.
Camp 2: "I'm going to fix this ASAP." - Obviously this a lot better, and most of the successful people I know have this attitude. They get things fixed quickly. However, there's also...
Camp 3: "I wonder what opportunity is here..." - Instead of immediately trying to get things back to the status quo, they pause and see if there's an opportunity to be had.
In Rework, the 37Signals guys had a great piece of advice - if one of your employees leaves your team, don't immediately re-hire. See if you can go without the role, or do it another way.
You know, some people would just feel bad and pout and complain about how unfair or unlucky it is that the person quit or stopped performing or left the business. And that's bad, that obviously isn't conducive to success.
I think most successful businesses would try to quickly, proactively fill that position. But perhaps by pausing for just a moment and observing, there's more success there? Maybe new technology has become available so that you could pay somewhere between $50 and $500 per month to totally outsource the task you were paying $3,000 per month in salary for?
Maybe isn't not so critical after all?
Things like that.
The touchpad on my laptop went on the fritz tonight, started going all haywire. My very first reaction was the Camp 1 reaction. "What the hell is this, this computer is new, why is this crap happening when I have things to do..."
I stopped myself from indulging in that pretty quickly, and immediately started looking into fixing it. Okay, maybe the drivers are corrupted and I'll try to fix it like that.
Interestingly, as a mixed blessing, my internet is patchy and unreliable, especially in the nighttime here. My internet went down before I could download new drivers.
This gave me a moment to pause and move to Camp 3 - "I wonder if I can teach myself to navigate around my computer more without using the mouse at all."
And you know what? I already knew a lot of the keyboard shortcuts, and I picked up most of the ones I didn't know with trial and error pretty quickly. While this is a bit of a hassle, there's an opportunity here to learn my way around keyboard shortcuts and get a lot faster.
Whenever there's a hassle, there's very, very frequently an opportunity in there somewhere. I'm all for fixing things very quickly and proactively, but stop and think if you can get something from the hassle that you normally couldn't get. Usually, you can.
I don't really like the concept "hassles = opportunities". It makes it sound like hassles are good, which they are not. But I agree that we have to live with, and learn to deal with them.
I would rather take 2 others lessons from your post:
* Evaluate often the situation :
Rather than waiting for my touchpad to go crazy, I should evaluate my productivity using my computer and deduce that I should learn shortcuts.
Same lesson for companies, don't wait that a employee leave to evaluate if all roles are necessary, and if it can be done in another way.
(using random hassle as a trigger to that evaluation is great, but the best is to do it periodically)
* Learn from the hassle : so we can be prepared for something similar in the future, or try minimize/eliminate it.
So the lesson here is that we should be aware the electronics can be unreliable, so be prepared (for exemple, take an usb key with powerpoint presentation during an important meeting, conference,... / or backup often)
When a employee leave, try understanding the cause (observe and ask). If they are more hassles caused by the departure, prepare so the transition goes smoothly next time a employee leave.
Tell me what you think
I have noticed that whenever my internet goes out for n extended period it prompts me to do things on my computer I've been putting off for while, and that whenever i leave the computer for a short time after a long period of use i feel a lot better and more energized.
I do my best thinking while gardening, driving, or bathing. Sometimes I have to leave the computer in order to think, because as long as I'm on it, other things beg my attention. Not necessarily distractions, but other work - and when I'm puzzling over something for one client, I don't want another client's work to interfere with the thought process. Once the thoughts are done "percolating" I can move on.
I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.
Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:
First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.
Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.
Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.
I've always been a fan of productivity & efficiency hacks to allow me to do more with the limited time in each day. But lately, I've been working really hard to institutionalize these things within our company, PointAbout.
Everyone reacts a little differently. Some people take to keyboard shortcuts easily, while for others using the mouse is a very hard habit to break. I would liken keyboard shortcuts to blogging: With both, there's a "valley of death" you have to get through before you emerge in the sunny field on the other side, and most people don't make it. Both blogging and keyboard shortcuts require several weeks or months of concerted effort to prove successful, but once you emerge on the other side of that time commitment, you look back with the realization you should've done it years ago, it's so valuable. Initiatives like the F1 GeekSpeed Challenge help make it a bit more fun.
One thing that's been easier to institutionalize has been the use of Basecamp , a cloud-based Software As A Service (SAAS) lightweight project management tool, instead of email. I've gotten quite militant with everyone around me that if a conversation turns into a thread on email, or if you know it's going to be one, it should be moved to Basecamp. There are several huge benefits to this approach -- again, not all of them immediately obvious. The first is that it allows you to assign owners and dates to tasks, something email is notoriously poor at. The second is that you have a threaded conversation, all kept in one place, and various people can be added & dropped to comments along the way as necessary (no more 'reply to all' hell). These benefits are nice when they're happening, but invaluable as time goes on and the knowledgebase builds.
Today I came across a great example of exactly this. Hayat, our admin, had asked me how to do some transcription work. About 4 months ago, I had previously trained another admin on this. Since I put the original training instructions on Basecamp, I was able to very quickly & easily call up the thread and just have Hayat read it + watch a video I had posted in the thread. That was it -- I didn't have to do anything more than point her in the right direction, the rest of what she needed was perfectly memorialized on Basecamp from the first time I went through it.
It felt so great and refreshing to have successfully stored the knowledge in a place where it could be readily reused that I did a video to show off the details. Here it is -- enjoy!