The day was going to be a great one. Sun not yet risen, a decent pot of coffee brewing whilst putting some thought into how I’d spend the next 10 hours of my life. No meetings planned. Time to recuperate and recalibrate whilst working on a range of projects which would fall into the Important/Not Urgent Category.
Working my way through my morning routine one of the things I do is check my various inboxes. There it was. A mail to change the course of the day. A heads-up of some technical issues meaning problems with e-mail. What then happened was 8 to 10 hours of frustration dealing with tech support departments to resolve the issues. Irksome.
Expectation Versus Reality
This was a great example of expectation versus reality. My expectation (the day I’d like) bounced by real events (email service provider ‘upgrade’ causing problems). The expectation is the thing I create. And therefore, the thing I have the most influence over. This isn’t me saying don’t have high expectations. Just make sure they are managed when they come into contact with real events. Rationally most people will probably accept this point. Although in the moment, when things happen you don’t like, it’s easy to get caught out. I know I do. Having an approach to help manage the gap between expectation and reality is something worth considering. Here’s an approach to experiment with.
Five Steps towards objective managing
Much of the frustration I felt that morning was me projecting into the future about the impact of events in an unhelpful way.
Some of this is down to the way we are wired. Wanting to neutralise threats and risks wherever possible. We all have our own thresholds here. Depending on the severity of the situation being faced we can become paralysed to think rationally and objectively. Catastrophising what may happen. In the vast majority of situations, the quicker we can shift our thinking away from this the better. Visualising can be a powerful tool. We need to make sure we know how to use it to our advantage though. Creating an approach to handle a situation in the moment can be hard. Part of our brains doesn’t want you thinking objectively. In fact, it will look to deliberately shut that down. With practice, we can manage that situation. Following the five steps below could help.
1. Breathe. Sounds too basic? In pressure situations, our breathing changes. Often becoming shallow and short. This doesn’t serve us. Consciously slowing your breathing down can really help calm your thinking and help you become more objective. There are many techniques to help with this. Personally, I’ve found real benefits over the years with Box Breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and repeat. A few rounds of that can really help.
2. Establish and assess the actual facts of the Situation. The key word here is facts. Not what you imagine is happening or might happen. A fact that we will often need to accept is what you thought you’d be doing has changed. Avoid skipping over this fact.
3. Consider your Options to manage and (hopefully) improve things. This is where you can become more imaginative about deciding a course of action.
4. Consider what Risks might get in the way of what you’d like to happen. How might you mitigate them? Or is it a case that you need to accept or tolerate the risk?
5. Decide what Action you need to take. And then, of course, take it. Get really clear about what this is. Vague actions increase the load on our brains.
Steps 2 – 4 I remember by the mnemonic SORA. As a situation develops running back over the steps based on the results you see can also be helpful. The great thing about SORA is that it’s universal. From e-mail servers going down, to train cancellations, to coping with a 5-year-old that won’t put their shoes on.