Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Partial success is still success

Published: 17 Jul 2012

I haven’t written here for a few days. I have good reason for it, sort of. I was pretending I was a spoiled princess. I had some friends in town, so obviously it was hard to maintain my goals.

princess-in-lambo

Foolish people let me do this!

No problem, I know how to handle this. I revised my expectations and it worked fine.

There’s the catch-up, though.

The problem with catch-up

Catch-up work has a lot of unexpected variables to it. Things stack up, or some things you think will go smoothly don’t. Moving quickly contributes some degree of carelessness.

This is exactly what happened and just as soon as I felt I was caught up, I hit a speed bump due to lack of future planning.

Nothing major, just my time estimates on completing some tasks were significantly off. On my todo list for today I had 4 main items and by dinner time it was pretty clear I was going to have to get by with a 50% success rate.

50% isn’t bad

I shouldn’t feel bad about this. It doesn’t help me at all to beat myself up over it. I still got 2 really important things (ok, one important thing and one trivial thing) done. That’s what counts. That’s what matters.

You move mountains one stone at a time, and some days you can move more stones. That’s the nature of progress.

I need to stay positive, but it’s hard. It’s too easy to use the negative emotional response as an excuse to not improve.

Be your own worst critic

Being positive doesn’t mean you excuse your behavior, though. In an old Joel Spolsky article, he talks about Evidence Based Scheduling. What I took away is that there is significant value in being able to estimate accurately. I agree with this.

I need to be able to meet my estimates. Either I thought I could do more than what was possible or I was careless in thinking about other tasks. Neither of which is acceptable behavior.

It’s important to be able to correct your mistakes and move on. Making mistakes is to be expected, but making the same mistake is the biggest mistake.

I need to be able to tell myself I failed in clear terms. Not to accuse myself of failure, but to make myself better. It’s not an easy thing, because as adults we forget how to take criticism or blame. Even when it’s from ourselves.

If I am to succeed I need to learn how to address my mistakes and correct them, not to shy away from them.