Things learned while writing about things learned

Last year, I conducted a 12 month experiment related to implementing Code Stewardship at my organization. It went ok; I think I made some progress, and I think I learned some useful things. As a next step, I felt I had these options:

  1. Do nothing; maybe switch focus to some other initiative
  2. Extend the experiment; i.e., continue working on it
  3. Share what I’d learned; e.g. internal blog post, post on my web site, perhaps write a talk and submit to a conference somewhere

I was having trouble deciding which one to choose. I procrastinated on making the decision for a month or so, but not deciding was bothering me. I felt like I was starting to default to Option 1, but if that’s where things ended up I wanted it to be a conscious decision rather than just the path of least resistance.

I realized that I probably didn’t have enough information to make the decision, which could be why I kept putting it off. For example, how could I decide between Option 1 and Option 2 if I didn’t take time to think really critically about what impact my work was having? I decided to try Option 3, but to allow myself the potential outcome of not ever sharing what I wrote if it didn’t feel useful enough. (I did end up sharing it with several people at my organization.)

And here’s what I learned while writing that article:

  • Taking the time to retro on things I do, especially things I spent a lot of time on, just feels better. I think I prefer being sure that I haven’t achieved something, over not being sure if I did. Closure is important.
  • Summarizing and reflecting is a great way to uncover things I’ve learned or taken away from an experience that I didn’t realize I had. Exactly what I’ve learned is not always obvious.
  • If I do decide to share my reflections, other people will have really cool perspectives and thoughts about what I did that I may not have considered. Being really close to the work for a long time means it’s hard to think about it in new ways.

I better stop here. My manager says that if I think too hard about this, I might end up in an infinite loop.

…what did I learn while writing this article about things I learned while writing an article about things I learned…? :)

Written on February 8, 2018