Why not just focus on the project?

I came across an article recently on Get Buttoned Up which is a blog about learning to “live an organized life not a life of organization.” It is worth a sub to your Google Reader if you are interested in keeping organized. Perhaps their recent posting How do I deal with a Micro-Manager? may be helpful to you if you deal with a “controlling” client or SME…

It starts off with a piece of advice that I love because tells us to focus on what we can control, which is essentially—ourselves.

You cannot “fix” a micromanager or force them to change. So stop focusing on “them” and “what they are doing to you.” Instead focus on what you can control: how you react to her/interpret her actions and your ability to influence her demoralizing, disruptive behavior.

As a designer, I aspire to only focus on the design and the learners that it will ultimately benefit. If I get too caught up on focusing on extraneous influences (e.g., emotions of an email, unprofessional confrontations, argument nature, etc. ) this will ultimately influence the constraints placed on the project—most likely the constraint of time. Then who suffers? The learners? The project with your name on it?

The article has some good tips which I definitely concur with. Here is my rendition of them:

  • Check for Clarification & Get It In Writing
    Any opportunity that you have to get your problem in writing… TAKE IT. Knowing exactly what you are expected to do is always a good one! How else can you evaluate if the performance indicators have been met? That is Instructional Design 101, but often much of work could be originally communicated in a verbal meeting.  I find it helpful to send out a quick “Post Meeting Update” email with a list of the things the SME and I discussed and how we agreed we are moving forward with the project (i.e., who is doing what and when). Then they will have the opportunity to rebuttal, but I believe they mostly use these emails as a to-do-list for themselves which also helps as well.
  • Always Provide Updates
    An SME, Client, or manager in this instance needs to know where you are on the project. While this may seem tedious it will help them to see that you are diligently working, give them an idea of your work load, and perhaps encourage them to get to work themselves on their deliverables for the next deadline. I like the articles tip about including “Status Update” in the subject line of the email. This will help the receiver know exactly what is in the email and they perhaps can disregard it if they don’t need an update. That is their choice. Writing descriptive subject line for emails is an art… but that will have to be a discussion for another post.
  • Pick Your Battles
    The article says this point best. “The micromanager will go to war on every issue. Don’t try to match [them] on every one. Instead, pick the battles that are most important to you.” I say, as an advocate for the learner, pick the battles that matter most to them.

So like I have been saying above. Try your best to just focus on the project at hand. I have found that this will show all parties involved that you have a strong work ethic and that you will get the job done. Perhaps this will encourage them to loosen their leash? Maybe… maybe not? Good luck.


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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One Response to Why not just focus on the project?

  1. Pingback: Darth Vader vs. Two Face: A LRNchat discussion of Emotional Intelligence… | coffeeanDesign

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