July Bright Spots – Locus of Control

They say that change is not linear. We all say that. We all think that. We all know that. But DO we? Because when it comes to change, I know I am always a bit disappointed when things don’t go exactly how I wanted them to go. They take an unusual turn.

Can you relate? Sometimes it’s because we realise later we could have done things differently. And sometimes it’s because of things outside our control. In ‘normal life’ (remember that?) I believe we experience a balance of both. At the moment, it feels as if most things derailing our plans are out of our control. There are so many things that depend upon us watching the latest media release to find out what we can and cannot do. These latest restrictions in Victoria have been tough, and as we all come to terms with another ‘new normal’ it is more important than ever to focus on what we can control.

At times like this it feels like our locus of control is shrinking. Small things we would not even think about in the past are no longer ours to do as we please. Popping out to our favourite restaurant for a spontaneous meal. Running out of something but knowing it can be easily replenished by a trip to the local store. A weekend away. Rushing to get to the airport.

I thought I would share how I find my bright spots, as I know they can be tough to spot at times like this. Like many of you, I have felt like my locus of control is shrinking, so I’ve been doubling down on noticing what I can control. When I notice something, I REALLY notice it, give it lots of airtime – no matter how small. For example, I have been running a Project Management workshop for a client over the past few weeks. Normally, I would be up early to ensure I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare to set up. This means getting up super-early and commuting – allowing heaps of extra time in case something goes wrong with public transport or traffic. On the mornings I’m facilitating, I still get up early, but instead of that commute I meditate, write, go for a walk, take my time reviewing the training content and my notes from the previous session – all while enjoying the fact I don’t have to commute. While I still get dressed, I relish that I can wear my Ugg Boots. In the breaks I’ll put on music and dance around my living room, cuddle my cat, or pop something in the slow cooker – NONE of which can be done in a formal training setting. How amazing is this? Of course, this is easier to do on some days, but that’s my strategy. By really blowing up those small moments, they become more memorable. How do you find your bright spots? I would love to know!

Now you know how I find my bright spots, I’m looking forward to sharing mine, as well as hearing yours.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re experiencing, I hope you’re staying as positive as you can and looking for ways you can contribute. Because the world needs what you have.

Warm wishes,
The Agile Project Manager

P.S. Missed June’s bright spots? You can find them here.

My July bright spots

As an avid learner, I’m loving the opportunities to think differently about how I work, learning new techniques to both increase and share my knowledge. This continued learning continues to be a big bright spot, but the other is my new iPad and Apple Pencil. I originally bought them because when I facilitate, it’s great to have another way of sharing a concept, and it’s a great replacement for a whiteboard. But it has been so much more than that. I had been finding myself stuck in my head a bit of late, staring at a blank sheet of paper with no words coming to me. So I started using the iPad and Apple Pencil to write by hand. This is something I used to do but I would often end up searching for a pen and a notebook, starting new notebooks and losing notes. With my new iPad, I use Notability and simply start a new note every day. This first note is simply a stream of consciousness – handwritten rather than typed. Catherine Deveny refers to it as ‘clearing the pipes’. When I learned this in her writing class, it was a game-changer for me. I learned that writing is like gold prospecting. You can chip away at stone for a long time before you find gold. It gave me permission to write stuff that will never see the light of day. Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way) refers to this as Morning Pages – and when done consistently they can do amazing things for your writing. I’m not sure about my writing, but they are doing amazing things for my mental health. Taking the time first thing in the morning just to write without any purpose, and no restraints is amazing. It also means I have a guaranteed bright spot every single day. Even though I had been doing this on and off, the iPad has put a kind of structure around it and it is joyful to write by hand, knowing I’m not sending pages of paper to our recycling.

Running workshops online continues to be a bright spot. I love it when I find opportunities to do things differently that make the experience better than a live classroom. My latest one is voting. In a live classroom, we might do a brainstorm with post-it notes, sort everyone’s input into themes, then vote on the top themes. Voting is normally via sticker dots or Sharpie markers – I’m sure many of you have experienced this. Lately, as you know, I have been using Mural, which has a voting function, and not only does this enable you to vote completely anonymously, you cannot see anyone else’s votes until voting has stopped. This kind of voting is pretty amazing, as you simply cannot be influenced by others’ votes. I know when I see a lot of votes for something, I’ll feel like I need to vote for it too. Or perhaps vote for something else, as that already has a lot of votes. Come on, who is with me on this?

With everyone contributing from their own home, it’s a level playing field. With many ways to contribute – chat, virtual boards, polls, quizzes etc – everyone can contribute in a way that works for them. A quiet person will often ace a quiz, or more recently I had a participant share how she had applied what she had learned the previous week to her project. This share might not have come to light in a live classroom, and it’s moments like these that bring so much joy and satisfaction and remind me why I do what I do.

Cousin games continue to be fun. My cousin and I played Pandemic on the iPad which was fun, and it takes on a whole new dynamic, as it all needs to be controlled from the one iPad, using screen sharing. It becomes more of a conversation rather than individual turns, but without the fiddling around with all the tiny coloured cubes. I think it would get super noisy with more than two people, but it’s very satisfying to save the world from four diseases. I mean, if we are in the grip of an actual pandemic, it’s nice to fantasise about saving the world. We have also started playing Psyche! An interactive game where you make up answers to questions and win points if others pick your answer. So much fun!! It’s wonderful to play and connect even when we’re separated geographically.

Moving to the country continues to be one of the best decisions we ever made. Waking up and listening to the magpies, walking through the mist on our local walking trail and loads of fresh air are just a few of the things I am incredibly grateful for right now. And the more I look, the more things I find to be grateful for.

I hope you’re looking and finding plenty of things to be grateful for too. Plenty of bright spots in an otherwise crazy world. For every bright spot we notice, we are collectively increasing the size of that circle of things that are in our control. I am looking forward to hearing how you do this too. Together, we can do this!




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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.