I’m just about to start a new job. It’s no big deal, except that I’m moving from a job where I know exactly what I need to be doing, who to talk to and what I’m talking about to a job where I know none of those things.
Am I freaking out? Ok, maybe slightly.
Officially I don’t start until next week, but as is often the case with an internal move the “informal” conversations with my new team have already started and I’m starting to build up a picture of what needs to get done.
There’s a lot to get done.
As the conversations unfolded and the mental list of “new stuff I’ll need to get on top of” started to grow, it occurred to me just how much I’ve come to rely on my intuition in my current role. I’ve still adhered to some of the CORE principles of Collecting, Organizing, Reviewing and Eliminating but they’ve been subconscious, tacit, invisible. In my comfort zone the hallmarks of the “super organized” – the lists, the files, the Emergent Task Planner – have faded away to what amounts to more of an innate philosophy than an tangible set of tools.
When The Pressure’s On, Get Back to Basics
All this needs to change. I’m way outside of my comfort zone and although this is temporary, survival tactics are required. For a while at least, I’m breaking out the structured collecting approach, dusting off the task manager and printing out my daily Emergent Task Planner. Hell, I may even put myself through a daily review.
It’s a common truism that when in unfamiliar situations, we cling to the familiar for comfort. There’s an element of that in why having a comforting “routine” or structure to bring to a new role helps soothe the nerves and reduce stress levels. But in reality the rationale for falling back on ingrained methods runs a little deeper. When your brain is being taxed and you need to concentrate a lot, it’s common to shut down your more peripheral operations, like motor skills and speech. This is why people pause to think. In these times of high stress, it’s important that your autonomic systems continue to function, otherwise you’d stop breathing and pass out.
Whilst respiration and circulation are the best examples of things your body can still do whilst your brain is occupied, there’s another level of automation that’s slightly less medical but equally interesting. How is it that you can walk in a straight(ish) line whilst texting? How can we sing and tap dance at the same time? The answer is simple: we embed these activities. In other words, they become semi-automated; they require less conscious thought to execute.
When an activity you’ve been doing for years becomes a deep habit, it is effectively embedded into your subconscious and becomes a semi-automated tasks. These tasks can still be performed when under stress because they are reflex, or autonomic. This is why it’s helpful to go back to basics when you’re moving into a new role because your collecting and organising reflexes will kick in and help you collect and collate the information relevant to your job even though your brain is thinking ohmygodohmygodohmygod…
When Starting a New Job, Lean on What You Know
For me, the solution is clear: get back to basics and let CORE support me through the next few challenging weeks. As I start to get to grips with the boundaries of my new responsibilities, I can eliminate those things that are no longer necessary and achieve the right balance of structure vs flexibility.
It’s going to be hard. But it’s also going to be fun. Bring it on.