Dealing with uncertainty

2014-06-09 Dealing with uncertainty

2014-06-09 Dealing with uncertainty

Some projects are mostly under my control. I might not know exactly how to get to my goals, but if I make steady progress, I’ll eventually figure things out and get there. Programming is like that. I have a good idea of what’s possible. If I break the challenge down into small, manageable tasks, I’ll solve it eventually. Juggling two or more projects makes it easier for me to switch to something that I can act on whenever I get stuck or whenever I need to wait for something else.

Other projects are less certain, but I can use other people’s experiences to improve my estimates. Research helps me figure out the odds, and that lets me take calculated risks or make decisions. If things don’t go my way, I can remind myself that success wasn’t certain in the first place. You can do everything right, but you’re still subject to forces beyond your control. No point in stressing out over things you can’t influence as much as you’d like, anyway. All you can do is prepare for flexibility and safety nets so that you can take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks. =)

For some projects, I don’t even know the odds. Am I doing better or worse than expected? No clue! For example, in terms of gardening, is my garden doing well despite the shade and the sandy soil, or are there other things I can do to improve it? Someone with more experience might be able to figure things out. I’m still working on figuring out how to ask better questions. It helps to pay attention and do the best I can, celebrating the journey along the way. (The grass is growing! The bitter melon are starting to flower! I’m getting into the habit of rubbing off the leafminer eggs on the sorrel!) It also helps to remember that many of the projects in this category are long-term ones, so even if I make mistakes this year (apparently, you’re not supposed to prune early tomato flowers), I can learn from those mistakes and make next year even better.

I like being mostly in control, or at least knowing what to expect. I’m gradually getting better at dealing with uncertainty, though. =)

 

  • http://nullprogram.com Christopher Wellons

    I use the juggling technique with my professional work all the time, intentionally keeping involved with two to three projects at a time. I’ve noticed it’s made me a lot more asynchronous than my single-project colleagues. When they get stuck, they have little else to do but drill down on whatever they’re stuck on. They make phone calls or go visit in person the person who can help.

    When I block on a problem that requires someone else’s attention, I fire off an e-mail and change what I’m working on. Unless there’s a deadline, I won’t go back to it until either they’ve responded or they’re taking too long (a timeout :-) ).

    In your bottom left square I thought for a moment that one of your projects was learning how to juggle!