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Stop. Think.


Don't be dumb on purpose. Most people I have worked with are doing the best they can. I have not knowingly worked with anyone why has purposefully done something stupid. However, I have seen plenty of stupid things done by people I have worked with, and done some stupid things myself. How does this happen?

Apply Pressure

The workplace is full of different pressures. Social Pressures, delivery pressures, financial pressures, management pressures (both ways), and peer pressures. These pressures drive behaviours. As the pressures increase, people become stressed. It is not uncommon to hear phrases such as "running around like a headless chicken" in a workplace. Different people will feel stressed by different pressures, being aware of what makes you stressed will help you cope better. If you are managing a team, try to understand what makes people feel stressed, and do what you can to remove unnecessary pressures from people. A high level of pressure will lead to people pushing themselves to cope, skipping meals, missing sleep, working excessive hours, working when sick.

Not being stupid on purpose

The actions in response to high levels of pressure will lead to stupid behaviours. Working while tired, sick, and long hours, will create sub-optimal outcomes. These outcomes will often appear stupid in hindsight.

While no one is trying to be stupid on purpose, are the people you work with taking action to not be stupid? Are people who are feeling stressed, and under pressure, taking actions to intentionally release the pressure, and therefore the stress they feel?

Offline memory

When you have a lot going on, you will find a number of thoughts spinning around in your head, day and night. Remember to check the thingy, and don't forget that meeting, and the presentation needs the extra content, and the project road map needs to be updated, and the person who annoys you needs to be managed, and the delayed delivery of component X needs to be accounted for by the team relying on that, etc... Trying to keep all this in your head is going to make focussing on any single task very hard. Find a system to help manage these items, write them in physical notebook, keep a spreadsheet, make notes in OneNote, use a task tracking system, or any other way you can find to offload the need to remember them all. Once you have captured the concern you can move on. Each time something else pops into your mind, that needs doing, consideration, answering, write it down, add it to the offline memory store you have created.

Then on a regular basis, at least weekly, go through the list and prioritise the items. Do not do this too often, otherwise your job becomes managing the list and nothing else. Certainly no more than once per day. Doing this will reduce some pressure.


Schedule in time to stop. In your calendar block out time to eat, to go for a short walk, to stare at the sky. If you are working in a creative industry (such as software development), then finding the time to stop will allow your creative mind to rummage around and find new questions and answers. When you get blocked by a problem it is often best to park that problem and work on something else. It is amazing how many times the solution to the original problem comes to mind while not focussed on it.

Another time to stop is when you physically feel the pressure. If you come out of a meeting sweating, or with thoughts like "shit! what now?", then STOP. Postpone any meetings you may have committed to for the next short while (it is not like you will be useful in those meetings anyway). Then take a walk, go for a drive, do something that lets your mind wander, and breath.

The point is to stop until you can be working effectively again, and intentionally not be doing stupid things you will regret later.


As well as stopping to reduce stupid behaviours, make time to think about specific issues that need attention. Often at work you will find people clamouring for your attention, asking for help, support, thoughts, meetings etc... In many workplaces it is easy to fill up your day with these activities, and most of them are (hopefully) of value to the aims of the team, group and business. However it is also important to make the time to focus on the problems you are responsible for solving. In the world of constant messaging, always-online, interactive multi-user tools, it is easy to never get more than a few minutes before the next interruption. Fortunately all these software, and hardware, products come with a solution. The off button, or quit menu item. When you block out time for working on a specific task or problem, use this off feature to enable you to focus, and think, without interruptions.

Work Healthy

While this should not need stating, it still appears to be an issue in the workplace. It is not 'hard', or 'clever', or 'committed', to work when you are sick, or not feeling clear headed. By working when you are not healthy, you are not taking action to not do stupid things, and you are most likely extending the length of time until you feel healthy again. When your body is sick, it needs to rest to recover to full strength. Take that time, so that you can come back at full health, and be focussed on doing great things.

Last update: October 3, 2022 00:43:11
Created: October 2, 2022 05:15:08
Authors: Neil Roodyn