What now seems a very long time ago, I was a freelance information systems developer with a lovely little niche. I worked with Local Planning Authorities developing systems for managing the administration of representations received in response to public consultation on the Local Development Plan. Yep, that's what I did. And, I was very good at it too. Being a qualified Town Planner myself I understood from first-hand experience what they needed, and importantly, I have a predisposition to solving problems and making things simple.
It's been a long time since I have created a new relational database but for a while I have been thinking how useful one would be in the administration of my work now. Spreadsheets are fine for numbers and calculations but relational databases are the thing when connecting data, and turning it into meaningful and useful information which can save a lot of time and energy when doing our work.
I could get all geeky and explain how it works, but that's not the point of this post.
Yesterday, I decided I would create the database I needed by using some opensource software rather than a paid for version. It was a very frustrating day. Lots of elements appeared very familiar but there were differences, and the added challenge of the passage of a lot of time since I did this sort of thing, meant that it was far from straight-forward, and many times I just wanted to give up.
The frustration got me pondering. I wondered why I was intent on spending so much time on it. Was it really the best use of my time?
"Yes", I told myself.
Right then, I'd better knuckle down and get on with it, push through, re-learn what I've forgotten, try harder. Focus. The determination kicked in. But, this new approach left me feeling exhausted and certainly not enjoying the process. It was a definite uphill 'push'. And, one that I recognise all too well.
Time for another word with myself:
"This is what you need. You need to get sorted and organised and then you'll be able to be so much more efficient and effective - and do what you allowed your clients to do all those years ago, which was to focus on the work they loved rather than the tedious admin processes and wading through reams of paperwork."
My intention as an IT consultant was always to make it a joy for my clients to do their work because the repetitive and tedious processes had been automated. They were free to focus on technical and creative aspects of their role, not the paper shuffling and energy sapping task of collating data and presenting it as useful information.
Having reminded myself of my 'why' when I was a consultant, I wondered how I could use this in my current challenge. What if I applied the same principles as I used to apply to my clients? Identify the problem(s), solve the problem as simply as possible and make it beautiful and fun to use.
Re-discovering my 'why' shifted my energy. Instead of focusing on the 'how' and the 'what', when I got in touch with why this mattered my energy changed. I became excited about the possibilities and know why I am putting my energy into this. And, I will most likely need to remind myself of that along the way, when it gets challenging.
Does this resonate with you? Most likely not the specifics of relational databases (although if you are a fellow fan I'd love to know), but the idea of when we know why we are doing something it can give us the motivation that the how and the what don't.