transitions – noun | \tran(t)-ˈsi-shəns\
: a change from one state or condition to another
Give me a task to do, and chances are I’ll come up with a bigger, more complicated process than you ever thought possible. I’m good at thinking of each step from start to finish; I like to plan how each step leads to another. I like flowcharts and spreadsheets; I like workflows and timelines. I can get lost for hours coming up with a system to make things happen.
But sometimes — okay often — my enormous processes don’t work. They are too complicated, and in the middle of trying to use them, the whole point becomes murky. Almost every time, I end up paring down the process to a more logical, workable system, but only after days or weeks of muddling through.
I did this when I worked as a data analyst at a medical billing company. Ditto when I was an editor of an online magazine working with many part-time editors. When I recently hired an assistant to help me with a few tasks in my freelance business, I nearly ran her off with my complexity. And now I have a new client, and is it any wonder why it’s taking me twice as long to than I estimated to do the work each week? It’s because my process is too complicated.
Experience tells me that time will eventually resolve some of my process problems, but I am learning that there’s another aspect to my systems that I’m also not paying enough attention to: the beginnings and the endings.
“Coming and going matter far more than what happens in the middle,” writes Seth Godin. “We mistakenly spend most of our time thinking about, working on and measuring the in-between parts, imagining that this is the meat of it, the important work. In fact, humans remember the transitions, because it’s moments of change and possibility and trepidation that light us up.”
Most days, I don’t have a start and end to my work. Too often, I don’t even have a start and end to my day, if you must know. I wake up running, and then I keep moving until I fall into bed. But like Godin suggests, I ignore the transitions to my detriment.
I have a long way to go before I sufficiently pare down this new client’s system to a workable model, but a good place to start — both in my work and my life — is a process that gives me a beginning and ending to each work session, to each day.
It’s really simple, regardless of how complicated I try to make it.
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