Explicit help timeouts

swyx wrote an interesting article on how he applied a personal help timeout after letting a problem at work drag on for too long. The help timeout he recommends is something I’ve also recently applied with some of my coworkers, so I thought I’d summarise and plug it here.

There can be a lot of pressure not to ask for help. You might think you’re bothering people, or worse, that they’ll think less of your abilities. It can be useful to counter-balance these thoughts by agreeing an explicit help timeout for your team.

If you’ve been stuck on a task with no progress for x minutes/hours/days, write up your problem and ask the team for help.

There are a few advantages to this:

  • It reduces the pressure on an invidivual to decide an appropriate delay. If your team has agreed on one hour, you don’t need to worry about having struggled with a problem for “only” an hour.
  • It sets an upper bound on how much time you spend on fruitless struggle. While banging your head against a problem for two weeks can be a valuable learning experience, you need to balance that against delivering results.
  • You encourage more rapid sharing of knowledge between team members.
  • When you explicitly recognise the reasons people are reluctant to seek help, you lampshade impostor syndrome, reducing its overall power.

Read swyx’s article here: https://www.swyx.io/help-timeouts

Respond to this post via e-mail