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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Cooper

Try sitting on 2 stools

Hey there, I hope you've had a great weekend so far and ready to smash the new week!

Sitting on a stool is easy, unless you’re this guy. You can easily line yourself up and then just bend your knees.  Simple! You probably learnt it as a 1 year old, unlearnt it as a rebellious 3 – 8-year-old then learnt it again

How about sitting on 2 at the same time? Now that’s a bit trickier.  Both tasks on their own are simple and you know how to do both as it’s the same, however, when you combine them it comes much trickier and you need a lot more focus.  You need to keep them close together, line them up and then go a lot slower and at the end the chances are you’ll not be comfortable and might even slip between the 2 and land on the floor, and what did you really achieve. If the outcome to sit on both stools was so that the both got warm, you could sit on one, then switch to the other, maybe even lay your coat on one as you’re switching to keep it warm This is like doing multiple roles at the same time.  This is more than multi-tasking, which should also be avoided, but more taking on multiple responsibilities. Now I’d love to say you should just avoid it and declare it’s not in your job description but with the speed that IT moves and the pressure on budgets and especially headcount this is often not the case, also taking on extra roles is a good way to progress your career and test yourself The challenge with doing 2 differing roles is that you don’t do either well if you’re continually focusing on both at once.  If you’re doing engineering and operations, during engineering time you’ll find ways to build something that’s easy to support and maybe not to the specification required, or while doing operations you look at the bigger solution before you’ve restored service for the end user.  This is because your brain is taking efficient shortcuts Firstly, you need to set some ground rules with your manager on expectations.  If you work in support and you’re asked to do project work then you need to agree the split and what gets removed, delegated etc. to ensure you don’t burn out.  These can be tough discussions as often there isn’t someone to move work to and you should maybe discuss additional time to deliver tasks Once that is in place you should try to do 1 at a time or you’ll end flat on your ass like trying to sit on 2 stools, and you’ll be a lot more efficient. I’ve found these steps have helped me as I’ve often had dual or multiple roles:

  • Spend some time understanding the roles, expectations and deliverables to help you focus

  • Set specific times where you can for each role, this could be alternating afternoon or days of the week.  This is often tricky due to meeting and external demands, however trying to get this in place helps focus your mind and ensures you’re dedicating the right amount of time

  • Airgap the roles.  By this I mean to have a separation between doing one task to others.  Before switching from one role to another have a break.  Lunch is ideal; however, you could go for a 10-minute walk, go get a coffee, browse social media (if you must)

  • Find some triggers – Triggers are great to help your mind remember the focus you’re on. If you love listening to music while you work, then try having a different playlist or radio station for the different roles so that your brain associates and eventually will aid with the swapping of focus

These are just a few things that help me and it’s a little experimenting to find what works for you.  Try a couple and see how you progress. Remember that it’s important to stretch yourself but try to avoid taking on too much without the discussion on what can be reduced/delayed/delegate! If you liked this newsletter, please share and let you friends and colleagues know about it as I’d love to help more people!


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