Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve Jones is on vacation. This editorial was originally published on Feb 16, 2012.
You’ve all been there, the incident that turns into a debugging session that turns into a marathon call. Or the project that grows, morphs, stalls into something that demands more and more time with no end in sight. The series of long nights applying the latest service pack. It’s one thing to be tired, but the danger zone is when you’re too tired to work smart.
For most of the mental equivalent of muscle memory keeps us safe when we’re tired – as long as we’re doing things that match the patterns we’ve developed we do ok. When we hit something new, or unexpected, we power through. More often than not we solve the problem, even if we don’t do so efficiently or elegantly. Sometimes we get it wrong. If you’re thinking that elegance is nice but results matter, you’re right. We don’t often have the luxury of waiting for a good nights sleep before continuing.
So what can we do? Mostly it’s to recognize that we’re in that place of being too tired to work smart. You know the symptoms. Guessing. Trying the same thing over even though it didn’t work last time. Wanting to scream at someone “just tell me what to do!”. The urge to make a decision just to be done with the discussion. If you can see that you’re in that place, you can tell the group “I’m too tired to work smart and we need help”.
It doesn’t change being tired and it won’t make you smarter, but knowing that you’re in that place and sharing it, recognizing the stress, it might get you through without making things worse instead of better.