Sometimes, you need to take a deep breath.
I was reminded of this earlier in the week when I had to roll up my sleeves and work on a project that required a computer program I hadn't used in several years.
I started to find myself increasingly frustrated. The program had been upgraded since I last used it, and the changes were significant. Keystrokes that used to be so helpful no longer were, and tasks that were once second nature to me were now foreign. My computer was also misbehaving, freezing in the middle of critical actions and being a general nuisance.
But then, I stepped back and reminded myself of a few things.
• It's OK to ask for help. I didn't know the answer, but by gosh, someone else probably did. And sure enough, I found several people who could readily help me, and happily did so. The remainder of the morning found me humming the Beatles, “With a Little Help From My Friends” – those friends really were my saving grace.
• Disconnect for a little while. I'm a master at multitasking. Working on a story and the phone rings? Usually, I shift my attention over to the phone, handle the call, and hop right back to the story – no problem. In everyday life, interruptions happen constantly, and it's rare that we stop them. But why don't we? This project I was working on had a rapidly approaching deadline, so I turned off the phone, put the cell phone away, turned off my email, and dug into the project with 100 percent of my attention. It was amazing how much that helped, and a solid reminder that it's OK to do that once in a while.
• Sometimes, you simply need to reboot, both mentally and technically. At the very end of the project, I had one step to go, and I simply could not get the system to cooperate. I asked for help, but the best help in the building was stumped too. Everything we were doing should have worked. So we stopped, saved and restarted the computer. And poof, I was back in business, just like that. The same thing applied to my mental state. When I found myself getting annoyed, I walked away. When I came back a little while later with a refreshed perspective, I saw the solution I was missing before.
All in all, it was a good experience. It was a solid refresher on something I hadn't done in a while, and it turned out, I really enjoyed it. And the project? It came out just fine in the end. Taking a deep breath (or a few of them) paid off.