Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Danger of "Chaos Mode"

A friend recently posted on Facebook that he was having a hard time with procrastination, and wanted to know who else struggled to get things done in a timely fashion rather than right up to the deadline. If this was asked in a live meeting I would sheepishly raise my hand. Add to this stimuli a new audiobook I've been listening to from called Motivational Legends: Training Development and Character for Personal Success, and I've started to look at how I behave with a fresh set of eyes.

My readers know I claim to be a Project Management and Leadership expert, and that for the majority of my career since the military my work has been largely in project recovery. So much so, that I have a marketing company advising I call myself "America's Project Recovery Expert." In fact, when I get asked about what I do in Project Management I often respond with:

"Well, I've never started a project, and I've rarely finished one. I'm the guy you call when the project was set on fire and pushed off a cliff, but you still need to finish it." 

Rarely finish because too often, after I start making solid progress on a project, I'm called upon to hand-off the old disaster now under a semblance of control in order to deal with a new fireball somewhere else. Even before my civilian career I was often the disaster recovery guy in the military, handed the tough assignments which needed to be fixed RIGHT NOW, from communications blackouts to actual firefights. One of my more popular programs Parachute Project Management is based on these experiences and how to deal with them.

The end result of more than 15 years of fire-fighting is that I constantly operate in what I am calling Chaos Mode or, if you are a long time reader of this blog, Red Alert  (Quadrant 1) from the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. There is too much to do, and every bit of it needs to be done RIGHT NOW. Many people get overwhelmed in that environment, I thrive in it. But there is a flaw in living in Chaos Mode. Like an adrenaline junky constantly seeking their next thrill, I constantly seek new emergencies, otherwise I'm not motivated; thus I procrastinate. People are often impressed with what I can accomplish, but most don't know that I could probably do a lot more if I wasn't always waiting for the deadline to be on top of me first.

Now in my work life, the looming deadline is often caused not by my own doing, but by the fact that I thrive in those environments so companies / organizations often put me in those positions. The problem is that this need has transferred into my personal life. I can't count the number of "intended" projects I have which are either started and incomplete or never left the starting gate because the only deadline I place is my own, and that isn't pressing enough. If I miss it, who do I let down? Me, and as a motivator that typically isn't enough because I have a lot of other people counting on me in a lot of different scenarios.

Well, as in many things, the first step is identifying I have a problem. I am a Chaos Junky. Perhaps I should start a support group for Chaos Junkies? But where do we go from here? How do I adjust so that an emergency or looming deadline isn't the only thing that motivates me? To reference my own material, how do I move from Red Alert to the 6Ps of Quadrant 2? I've decided to take some steps:

1. First, I will schedule some dedicated time to list out my goals. Perhaps I'll even use my own document from Morey's Laws #4.

2. Identify the next steps required to move forward with those goals (I need not know the entire plan, just like this quote and this one.)

3. On Sunday I will take a "weekly" dry erase board and write one thing to do each day towards my goals.

4. On each day I will not go to bed until that one thing is done. Then I will cross it out on the board. Perhaps I will not allow myself TV or Facebook until that item is done.

5. Each Sunday I will dedicate time to review my progress, look at my goals and determine steps for the next week.

Hopefully, as I progress through these items I will develop the habit of mindfulness and avoid procrastination, and perhaps add more items to accomplish my goals. Would there be interest in seeing this personal journey on this blog? Perhaps I could share the results each Sunday? It may help me with accountability, so let me know if you are interested in seeing the results of this journey.

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