Avoidance Behaviors

When I first came to work for my current company — you may have heard of them — I was treated to a day-long new employee orientation, followed by a series of prescribed video tutorials that covered a variety of topics, including security, the law, navigating the company, benefits, etc. One of the more pleasant surprises was a “top 10” list of suggestions for a new person in Engineering — which I qualify for, managing an engineering program.

I don’t remember 9 of them, not specifically.

The suggestions were like most “work efficiency” things, as you read them your reaction is one of “oh, of course”. Things like limiting time spent on email, and the like. The only one I remember specifically was a Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The explanation provided was along the lines of, “We all have things we have to do that we’d rather not, so if you get them done and out of the way first thing then you’re better off.”  This is patently true, but a difficult thing to practice for days on end.

For some people, attending to email is their frog. For others, it’s having a difficult conversation with a coworker, or using a particular piece of software. For me, I seem to be having a definite reluctance to draw up a particular piece of architecture, not because I think it is a waste of time (it will be a very useful tool in a discussion) but because I have to deliberately draw up a comparison with what I feel is an inferior product.

Telling an engineer their design is inferior is akin to telling a woman her baby is ugly. It isn’t nice, and it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies. No one wins. The difference though is that the baby’s ugliness impacts no one (except, possibly, the baby) and a poor design can impact many people. Further, the impression I have that the alternate design is better is my own impression, through my own vision, and may be entirely wrong. Being someone who really prefers a black-and-white approach (binary, Boolean, whatever — there is yes and no, no maybe) means that this is a frustrating limbo.

And so I’ve been avoiding it.

I don’t have much time with which to avoid, though, as it is due today (self-assigned yesterday) and I do want it done. My personal outlook is further complicated by a brand-new sore throat, the kind which feels like you swallowed sand.

In the roughly 24 hours since I assigned myself this project, I have:

  • Attended four meetings, unrelated
  • Answered/categorized 50-odd emails
  • Updated a couple of unrelated documents
  • Checked a bunch of other unrelated boxes
  • Slept 10 hours — needed it, as the night before I slept 5
  • Wrote this post
  • Ate more than my fair share of Triscuits (rather than eating out of boredom, I eat out of avoidance, something the scale does not appreciate)

This thing will take me all of about forty-five minutes to do, and yet I somehow found time to do all of those other things. It will get done — but really, I should’ve eaten my frog this morning.

It would’ve left me too full for the Triscuits.

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