Hey you! What are you working on?

"Steve! What are you working on?"

"Sausages! Lemon drizzle cake! It's currently 30°C with a light breeze on the western peninsular so slap on that sunscreen pop pickers!"

Anyone else find it hard to provide an immediate and useful update on your work? Or say what you've been doing over the past week if asked out of the blue?

For me I like the room to take on board a question and provide a thoughtful response so a question like this out of the blue can throw me. Then I trip myself up because I think I'll sound like I'm lying or have been up to something I can't explain - which is completely irrational. It's then tricky to provide the right amount of detail for the context on the spot.

Trouble is I can't recall seeing someone doing this well. I've noticed that team leads have the same problem but they're almost expected to have too much on their plate. They're also likely to be ones asking the question.

It may also be a sign of too much context switching. Or just getting old - sometimes I can't remember what I've done over the weekend. Or an irrational fear that I'm working on the wrong thing. Part of it is working with people with different communication styles.

Here are a few strategies on providing useful updates I've thought about while writing this article:

  • Signalling intent more often so people don't have to ask for an update.
  • Keeping a progress log - I find it a useful reminder of all the different things I've been doing though I forget to update it.
  • Understanding the intent of the person asking the question.
  • Push back on providing an update straight away and offer to send an email with detailed response.

I'd be interested in hearing yours!

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

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