The things we have control over
Job crafting, note-taking and reflection, striving to do less, being an initiator
Over the last year, I’ve had a few conversations with friends and colleagues in the industry with one overarching common theme- finding joy at work/ enjoying the work you do/ not interested enough in the work currently in, etc..
Sometimes, we find ourselves in a job role that comes with a host of responsibilities some of which aren't so enjoyable. I’ve meandered that lane too.
This one particular concept that has been most impactful for me has been ‘job crafting’- redesigning your job in ways that improve your engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience, and helps you thrive.
It's an interesting and generic concept by Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski and her team that applies to any job and got me thinking about how it can be used in the tech industry, particularly software engineering.
I also came across this piece of research Dr. Angela Duckworth quoted in her book 'Grit' that lays out three concepts:
Job crafting can help us shift our perspective from job to career to calling.
There are three aspects of crafting:
Task crafting- altering the type, scope, sequence, and the number of tasks that make up your job.
Relational crafting- altering whom you interact with within your work.
Cognitive crafting- modify the way you interpret the tasks and/or work you’re doing.
I’d say software engineering yields itself better to this idea of job crafting given its dynamic nature, multitude of opportunities present and also the broader scope of work we do.
How does one do it? For starters, these are the steps:
writing down what you work on (the tasks), who you work with (relations) and how your work feels to you (perception).
note down what you would like to change about each of it.
the steps for that change
To be effective at job crafting, I feel one needs to be open about it and build trust with their manager and peers while also creating value for the organization. The ease of doing this depends on the size of the team and/or the company.
A good formula to focus on:
Effective job crafting = Create value for others + Build trust + Support network + Be Open about the process
By intentionally crafting our jobs, we can find a sense of identity and purpose to turn a seemingly dead-end job into a launchpad.
Question to ponder:
Are you shaping your job or letting the job shape you?
Importance of 1:1 notes
For about 3 years or so, I’ve maintained handwritten notes (mostly) and/or digital notes for my 1:1 meetings with my managers, peers, mentors, etc. I find having a list of topics (1-3) pre-listed before the meeting helps best utilize the time. In a bid to balance the interactions and note-taking, these notes are usually quick, on-point, one-liners.
A while back, I was casually browsing through my notebook archives from 3 years ago and I started spotting patterns around the areas of my discussions.
What did I learn?
There were things that I much better understand now, or also areas that I felt stressed about or cared too much about then that do not matter much in the present, and also things that I still struggle with now.
I circled and made notes of my observations, and added tags (ex. Strategic, Tactical, Improvements, Growth, Goal achieved, Goal pivot, etc.) as I was browsing through these notes.
So, I highly recommend maintaining notes and doing a time-boxed exercise of revisiting the notes periodically. It’s a valuable exercise and you will be surprised by what you learn from it.
Striving to do less
I like it when podcasts have timestamps in their show notes description because I can selectively listen to things of interest.
A few months ago, I caught up on bits from a podcast episode by Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) - Striving to do less. A few things that resonated around dealing with chaos-
Slow productivity: Chaos is related to overwhelm or an overloaded calendar or having too many things in progress. One theoretical strategy is to reduce what’s on your plate. No lever is going to give you more power against an overloaded schedule than actually reducing what's on your schedule in the first place.
Mental energy consumption: The practical strategy for lesser mental energy consumption is to reduce the footprint of a task. This can be done by looking at the tasks and setting auto-pilot schedules and routines around them. It also includes pre-defining- When do you do it, where do you do it?
Being the initiator
A while back, I was on a call with a good friend of mine. As we were talking, the conversation steered into how long it had been since we last connected and how re-connecting, sending a text, or setting up a call was on our minds for quite some time.
What was stopping us from doing that? The thought that ‘Oh, they must be busy, I am not sure if I should text or call them..’
So, what got us to set up the call? A simple text from my friend- ‘Hey! How have you been? We must catch up sometime.’
My friend described an approach they had been practicing that I felt was very powerful- ‘Being an initiator’. Being the person who reaches out, and takes the steps to connect or re-connect.
So, if you are thinking about reaching out to a friend or family, maybe ‘Be the initiator’ and harness the power of connection.
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