Look before you work

I had a Labrador that was fearless about jumping into the water. No matter what body of water it was, she would launch herself into it, seemingly without checking the depth or anything in a blissful trust of the water. Of course, we’d all love to have that total trust as we start a project or come into one.

The reality is she did some checking it was just invisible to me stood watching. There was instincts and likely an assessment, although done at speed. Treating every project with a baseline of checking ensures you don’t leap without knowing.

Projects are usually a black box, particularly those you come to in progress. Taking time to observe the lay of the land before diving in is critical. Pause, open your eyes. Engage observation mode; listen before just diving into creating. Deep breathing here fills your lungs for the dive ahead. It stops wasting time, stress and allows you to start from a place of strength, not hope.

Check the reviews

When booking a restaurant, you often check out the reviews. If you wouldn’t eat somewhere without checking those out why are you ok just diving in without asking those working on it or who might have? Often you may find someone is working on it already or has gone down a path now abandoned you can be aware of and not waste time doing the same.

This pause is an opportunity to listen, channel your inner archaeologist. Context is critical before making any decisions so ask, observe and make sure you know what has come before. You never know someone might already have found a solution, or be very close.

One toe at a time

You don’t jump straight into a bath, or maybe you do once then learn. You check how warm the water is and then go in. Often if you jump both feet first, the sound of the splash will ring so loud you’ll not be able to focus. Taking time at the start means a stronger project and a better experience for everyone.

Check for monsters under the bed

Part of the eyes open approach to starting a project involves being honest about what could be lurking. If you give a monster a name in fairytales it often got less scary, do this to your project monsters. Name them, note where they are and be ready to slay them with your sword of preparedness.

Make sure you’ve checked everywhere, those project monsters like to hide in tiny places. If you are coming to a project already in progress be sure to ask where the monsters are hiding.

Take a map, snacks and don’t go alone

Starting a project is a journey so prepare like you would for any adventure. Pack your project backpack, take snacks, make a map and above all, don’t go alone. While you might be leading or the point person on a project, you never have to go alone. A travelling companion makes everything seem a shorter and less arduous task. Plan the next steps and where you are going to go.

Measure twice cut once

The crux of this is about taking time at the start of a project. If you do this, you will rapidly get on the same page. While there is a little pause as you catch up to everyone’s breath and get in sync, then you can increase the pace from a strong foundation.

Mistakes cost trust, so by taking time to be careful, check the situation, you can ensure everyone has the best project adventure possible. Looking before you work enables you to work effectively and get a lot more done with a lot less stress.

Back to Qwerty

A few months ago I began a journey to learn Colemak. Yesterday I switched back to Qwerty. There were a number of reasons I stepped off my adventure into Colemak, but perhaps its better to start at the why I began that journey.

The luxury of trying

In my job I have the luxury of being able to experiment with what works for me. I had toyed with the idea of trying a different keyboard layout as a lot of colleagues had. They were split between Colemak and Dvorak.

The tipping point

There were a few factors that made me make the change

  • New MacBook key sounds: the keys are super loud, similar to a mouse in boots tap dancing loud, when I get a good conversational pace going.
  • Wrist pain: over the years I haven’t been great to my wrists with typing strain and they were reminding me of this factor.
  • Wanting to reduce my typing speed: a maybe unexpected motivation was to add more thought to my typing by reducing the speed.

It begins

I began my journey into Colemak possibly naively by going 100% in with doing it all the time. I did however use a cover. There was a problem with this though quite early on, the cover began warping and it kept leaving marks on my screen – not great.

I moved onto using stickers and this may have been where one of my downfalls began. The only stickers I could find meant you saw 2 letters – the ones on the keys and the stickers. This got even worse at night because the keys highlighted the Qwerty ones. I was rapidly finding things more and more of a struggle

The end coming

I found my spelling mistakes went through the roof. I have a lot of spelling issues as it is and my comprehension can at times be creative. However, it was compounded by trying to learn Colemak, to the point not a sentence would go by without issues. Just writing this in Qwerty already I am back to my usual pace of mistakes.

A different voice

One thing I did not expect to discover was a change in my writing voice. In the past my use of punctuation was somewhat lazy. It has on more than one occasion been suggested I should purchase a box of commas. As I was writing in Colemak this strange thing happened, I found commas.

Beyond my discovery of commas, the voice was slightly different. This was an unnerving effect. Not one I was sure I wanted. I did not feel it was a positive change either. In some respects I felt it lacked personality, it lacked emotion. Because I was having a lot of issues with typing the words, I became minimal to a point that wasn’t always good. It also tested my patience, although that was a nice thing to test at times, at others it could have created a bad response from me.

Mental model comfort

I never have learnt to touch type, I have this kind of weird half memory, half some fingers typing method. Its clumsy and inelegant to view, but it sure gets the job done.

I find touch typing very hard and the lessons to do it close torture. They make me panic, which has this awesome side effect of my Dyslexia going into overdrive. As I switched to Colemak, I began typing lessons that seemed like old scary ghosts back to haunt me.

Lessons learnt

I did try for several months but it came to a point where the benefits were not out weighing the gains. I had less wrist pain, yet the mistakes and brain hurdles I was causing myself were not worth the change. Even the keyboard sound was loud once I took the cover off and the covers don’t work yet well with the new MacBooks.

Reverting doesn’t mean other issues have gone away. I suspect my wrist pain will surface soon enough. Yet, I will combat this in other ways such as specific exercises and actually being better at breaks. I may have changed my keyboard layout but I did not get better at taking breaks. A keyboard layout isn’t a magic cure all.

What I have learnt is this:

  • Exercising my wrists and taking breaks is more important than switching a keyboard layout.
  • The ghosts of typing lessons need to be conquered. I plan on finally learning to properly touch type.
  • Experiments don’t have to succeed and I am lucky to be able to do them where I work.
  • I have more respect for those with slower typing speeds, for whatever reason. I want to try and keep the pace more considered and hold onto that respect.
  • Commas are great, I should use them more.