Surviving Chaos

and improve along the way

"the recognition"

When you know and recognize your in the "chaos bubble" get ready for a bumpy ride, you have been through worse. How do you know? Your ability to process and reason, all of the inputs, become diminished. Deadlines seem impossible, and you feel yourself entering into a survival mode to just get through it. This can be unproductive for a reason you might not be aware of. Our mind has the ability to learn and adapt, if, we lessen the amount that we force information to go through our cognitive filters, we normally use.

We all like to think we have a good handle on those inputs coming at us during a normal time in our life. However, when there is too much, to match the speed of these inputs compared to our normal reasoning, will often make the difference of just how chaotic this event will be.

A chaotic day or week will test your skills, and that's okay. After your chaotic week, you will probably realize you could have had a better system in place for organizing some areas of your life.

on the way

A chaotic day or week will test your skills, and that's okay. After your chaotic week, you will probably realize you could have had a better system in place for organizing some areas of your life.

Let me go over a few things that happen in the midst of a chaotic bubble.

It is possible to manage the chaos. One of the many ways that focus and prioritization takes place in an individuals life that has a good handle on organization, is when they have several problems at hand, and they person makes a decision to solve a particular problem, or just manage it. It's not to say that the "managed" problem does not get the attention to be solved, it is just not going to be solved right now. So be ready to make that decision: Should this problem that I am now aware of, be tackled later, be delegated to some one else, just manage it, or spend the time to solve it now.

"...give yourself credit for the journey so far"

Most often, we grow and learn in the midst of this chaotic time. Expanding our focus to the new demands, if embraced, will allow the high points, first, to be understood a little, and then get in flow with the details later. Understand our mind is trying to make sense of all this in the background even without us paying attention to it.

So let's give that portion of understanding a little help early in by forming a mental outline as a high level of events, or days activities.

When taking notes during all this, form your notes in an outline type, and fill in the other parts later. This is not the proper time for going down to a granular level. When that time comes, even during a chaotic period, you will be more apt to accept the deeper work because of the structure you are building.

When learning on a fast paced time scale, I've found it often helps to relate larger shifts of information to a time scale. This happened mid-morning on day 2, or after lunch break day 3.

Hoping for a little chaos. Getting out of your comfort zone is not always the most pleasant at the time it's happening, but these are often the most memorable events. When our brains stretch, adapt, and reach the outer limits of what we are comfortable with in a normal environment, we get this exciting feeling of accomplishment, and our confidence grows some. As our confidence grows the chaos starts to decrease.

so it begins

"...get comfortable with being uncomfortable"

Embracing change whether brought on by a job related incident or just circumstances in your life, will allow for a quicker learning by letting go of either, previous beliefs, or just your existing way of doing things holding you back from truly moving forward. Change is one of those things most people will be on one end of the scale or the other; there's not a lot of people who fall in the middle. From my experiences around 60% of people don't adapt to change well and will admit that. Next, 20% are neither here nor there regarding change, and 20% will seek out and embrace change. Demographics play a role in these figures however, out of any group the last 20% will have the easiest time during a chaotic period when change is clearly needed about a certain subject or topic. The 60% majority don't change because 1.) they don't know what to change 2.) they don't know how to change 3.) they don't know why they need to change or, 4.) it's just too hard to change.

It is easy to just want to "shut down" because of all the changes necessary during the chaos. Don't do this. See yourself through. Just pause, breathe, and spend 15 minutes gathering those familiar thoughts together: You know the ones that keep you grounded, in your standard reality. This can also be the moment you give yourself credit for the journey so far on this roller coaster ride. Think of the big picture for a moment. I'm getting that accreditation I sought after, or I'm fifty percent through this problem I set out to solve. Brag a little, but not too much, you've got more to go.

So after this period of chaos, it is highly important to reflect on it. Write down thoughts of how to be better prepared for your next circumstance of this crazy learning time you just went through because there will be more; get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Make sure you thank the people that have helped you during this period. Ask them if you could reach out to them in the future if something comes up related to the this subject. Keep those new relationships on an open loop. You might ask "If you thought of a change or update that you think I would be interested in, would you send me a quick email, I would really look forward it?"

A couple more points to cover. Be aware of decisions made during chaotic times. It's probably a good time to stay away from absolutes: I always...,or I will never... unless these are positive things that effect health or safety. Its better to maintain balance when making some decisions. What is up for grabs, is looking at your systems and processes (or lack of) and make decisions to improve these. You might just become the local subject matter expert. I emphasize local, because the majority of people don't want to be a subject matter expert (SME), but being a "Local SME" is acceptable and reasonable in their mind. Wouldn't it be amazing if this started out as chaotic but evolved into you being an expert. You can start down this path of by asking more questions. Most questions should be internalized, however the external questions such as: If I were to teach this to someone else, do I have all the data needed? Do I understand the "spirit of the project" If not, what would I need to do, to get clear with that? Taking a "Train the Trainer" approach with your new found systems for solving this current issue, will bring clarity to your own understanding.

wind down

"...processes and systems are working to keep you grounded"

Right this second how's your focus? Your phone rings while you're climbing down off a ladder. You're three rungs from the bottom, your phone is in your back pocket and would be so easy to get to. That small distraction of just thinking of the phone ringing, not to mention answering it, could lead to a misstep and have a disastrous outcome twisting an ankle while climbing down.

You're driving down the road in traffic while you're snacking and drop a piece of food. The natural response would be to pick it up. Such a small mental diversion can obviously have another disastrous outcome, especially if it fell on the mat by your feet and you feel you need to pick that up now. Just the slightest turn of the wheel could cause you to go off the road or perhaps in front of other traffic. I realize I'm getting granular with these examples, but I feel it is important to understand that micro-focusing is applicable more times than we think. Another example: You're on a video conference with several people, its probably not the time to complain. Does this focus come natural. It does to some people but some need a little influence, guidance or reminders that this micro-focus moment could be the pivotal point to this mission being a success or failure. Like when you're driving down the road you you pass a police officer and as soon as you pass he turns around and gets behind you, what do you do. You put both hands on the wheel you drop your rambling thoughts you focus on the road staying in the center of the road, you use your blinkers and go the speed limit. It's that micro-focus where we learn are able to break down the bigger job down to the level and moment we are in right now. We must consciously made a decision to drop the random thoughts and focus. This is how often people remember other people's names that they meet. You will find the more this is practiced your micro-focus window will increase, relevant to your next distraction.

If you went through this chaotic time with other people, just know that we all go through chaos differently. It very well could have been a low level chaos event for them but a high level for you. So when discussing this period, don't share that this almost took you down. Look! You survived, your here, and are probably better for it. Instead discuss what you learned, and let them share their thoughts, as you might learn from them also. If your in a leadership position during this period, then obviously you should help those with less experience.

You might notice during a chaotic period, that some of your existing processes and systems are working to keep you grounded. Be thankful for these moments and the time you invested in yourself for creating an anti-chaos plan.

Let's leave the discussion here for the time and perhaps we will consider a different angle of approach in another post.