How many times have you been sitting with someone, throwing ideas around but already you can see they are miles away? They are full of enthusiasm and just itching to get going, but you can see by their eyes that they are no longer listening to the conversation and already starting the work in their mind. Sometimes, you just need to stop and say, “let’s just think this through a little more first”.
What made me reflect on this was a blog by my colleague David Myall — “How my (dangerous) hobbies help my work”. You see, I also have somewhat dangerous or at least adventurous hobbies — scuba diving and triathlon. And one thing both have in common is the need to be fully prepared for the event. In scuba diving, or when preparing to race, it is important that you don’t just jump in straight away and get started.
In both sports, the mental preparation should start well before the actual race or dive. A key step in preparation is sitting quietly and running through the event in your head. For triathlon, this might be working through how you will approach your transition and the series of things you need to do to get from the swim to the bike or bike to run. When I used to teach scuba diving, and someone was struggling with the mask removal and replacement skill, I would advise them to go home and sit with their eyes closed and run through it in their mind, step by step.
This is a proven skill for professional athletes, because not only are you training your mind ahead of the task, you are pausing before you jump in. It is great to be full of enthusiasm and energy, and be eager to get started, but pausing and thinking something through in your mind will lead to better results.
There is an idea in software development that when we use an agile approach that we jump in and start coding a prototype and then iterate from there. The reality is that we should pause first, and think the idea through, including all the aspects of the work and possible scenarios. One of the best practices in agile is the estimation session, where an idea or solution is discussed with the team, and through the discussion we may realise, for example, that the testing effort makes this much larger than originally thought.
So, the message from this, is to take a little time; slow down just a bit and think things through. Make sure you understand each part of the process before you dive in. The enthusiasm and energy should still be there and not wasted by having to re-do work. And if you do a triathlon, maybe you won’t put your bike helmet on over your swim cap and need to stop and re-think your approach part way through.