Making Space

I’m getting ready to move and as everyone does, I’m starting to look around at all of the stuff I’ve accumulated. Deciding to move from my cozy little apartment is scary. I’ve been in the same place for four years, the longest anywhere since moving away for university. I love my little apartment, but being at home so much lately I discovered I’ve outgrown it and need more space. I’m excited to move, but looking around I realize that I don’t want to take everything with me. 

So how do you decide what stays and what goes? I think Marie Kondo has it right – if it doesn’t bring you joy anymore, then you say thank you and let it go. 

Let it go 

In our careers we need to do the same thing. Take a look at all of the stuff you’ve accumulated, and all of the things you’re responsible for. Then take a step back. Do these things bring you joy? Have you been holding on to old projects afraid to hand them off to an SRE team? Have you been taking on things that aren’t actually your responsibility or stepping in where you aren’t really needed? What can you let go of?

all you need is less

So many things keep us from letting gobut in doing so we make space for ourselves and others to learn and grow. Perhaps you’re immensely proud of the work you’ve done, or you’re worried about what will happen to the service when you hand it over to a new team. Maybe your ego won’t let you leave your comfort zone – you know this service the best out of anyone! When you aren’t the one they call in the middle of the night to fix an issue with it, what will you have left?  

Really think about why you’re holding on and acknowledge those feelings, then let it go.  

Finding joy

It can be quite overwhelming when you first make space to ask yourself what you’d like to focus on. What do you want out of your job? Which skills do you want to develop? These can be hard questions to answer, especially if you’ve been so busy that you’ve lost the joy in your work. It can also be quite surprising when you actually list out all of your projects and responsibilities, including all of those little side projects that you still technically own but haven’t touched in a year. Be aware of your reactions as you take the time to think about each item. After taking stock, it is so empowering to consciously decide what actually needs your attention and what can be handed off or closed.

For a while, it felt like my team was constantly running from one thing to the next. We had so many services to keep track of that it was hard to stay on top of everything. From creating new services to responding to incidents, I could tell my team was tired and losing joy in their work. With this new realization in mind, I took a step back and thought about our priorities.

Choosing joy

One of the projects I decided to let go was my team’s first Serverless application, which I was quite attached to and took a lot of pride in. When I realized it was time to hand it over to another team to manage, I found that I was the only one left on the team who had any knowledge of the application and the remaining five people had never even touched it! That was a clear sign that I was on the right path, and that it was adding to our cognitive load when it should belong to a different stream aligned team.

Handing over our application to another team didn’t make visible space on its own. Although, it wasn’t under active development, it was still a cognitive load that the team had to bear. We recently handed off several other projects too, to make space for the team’s actual priorities. This additional space gave us a chance to breathe and enabled us to get excited about the work we’re doing now.

Separate to elevate

group of people on top of mountain

We become acclimatized to bearing the mental load of all the stuff packed into our day and the stress that comes along with it. Instead, we need to create space for new ideas to bloom. Innovation requires room for thought which doesn’t exist when we overload our cognitive capacity.

How do you make space?

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