Overwhelmed and out of control in your dream job

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/)

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/) by M.V. Jantzen (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/)

Want a little bit of out of control in your life? How about some information overload?

You get that in spades when you first start out in your dream job. It makes sense, of course. You are in a new job, often a new company, a new manager, new coworkers and different route to work and a different cubicle to make your own.

Yeah, information overload. The keys to containing information overload and feeling overwhelmed are these: control and perspective. These are the two principles of David Allen (http://davidco NULL.com)‘s Getting Things Done (http://www NULL.davidco NULL.com/what_is_gtd NULL.php)methodology. And while I don’t endorse any methodology, I use his.

In your new job, then, how do you get control and perspective?

Control means knowing your full inventory of work and tasks

The deal in a new job is this: you don’t know what is important and what isn’t. You don’t necessarily know what has a high priority and what doesn’t. So you need to write down every task you think you need to do based on your work and interviews with your new coworkers. Only when all of this is out of your head and on to your task management system will you not have that overwhelming feeling that you are missing something important.

The other advantage of this full inventory is that you will start to know what you know and what you still don’t know. This is like electricity; you only worry about it nowadays when it is off and needs to get back on. You don’t normally focus all your daily activities around whether or not the electricity is on. You know it will be on, so you move on to something else.

The same here. Once you know X is always priority one (http://www NULL.gaebler NULL.com/How-to-Prioritize-Tasks NULL.htm), you check if X happens and if it hasn’t, you move on. Getting a bigger and bigger list of what you know shows your advancement and helps you focus on learning more about what you don’t know.

Getting perspective

The keys to perspective on a new job are reviewing your notes to consolidate knowledge and tasks. Plus doing a complete review of everything away from the work. In the book, I call this the weekly review of your objectives for the week.

Reviewing your notes (http://www NULL.cse NULL.buffalo NULL.edu/~rapaport/howtostudy NULL.html#takenotesinclass) helps you find conclusions from them. Your tasks, your organization, your goals. When you go through your notes, you find if you fully (for now) understand what was in your notes or whether or not you need to find out more about what you wrote. This helps you get to know what you know faster and focus on understanding what you don’t know.

Then, doing the weekly review against objectives for the week helps you see where you made progress and where you need to ask more questions. If you go through your goals with your manager, can you describe the goal and know how it will be measured? If so, great. If not, you have now identified through the review that you need to find out more.

Three times is a charm

This process helps you see your work three times: when you take your notes, when you review your notes, and when you do the weekly review. This repetition is key to learning (http://honolulu NULL.hawaii NULL.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/adults-2 NULL.htm) about your dream job faster than others. It is about getting to success quicker and also learning if your dream job is really right for you.