Reframing Obstacles As Challenges

Recently my team and I discovered that a piece of work we had hoped to take a shortcut on would not work the way we had hoped. The shortcut we had taken meant that we were dealing with incomplete data. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that we were right up against the deadline and the work we had tried to skip was historically several weeks’ worth.

We worked through some alternative solutions, hoping to find a quick way out of the hole we’d dug ourselves into, but despite our hopes, nothing worked.

I was hugely frustrated because I’d already written off my part of the process as complete, having been assured that the shortcuts would be fine. If we’d just followed the prior process, things would have been tight but much more achievable than the situation we find ourselves in now.

I still remembered the struggle of working through the process before, it was long, hard, intricate and prone to errors. Getting tired meant making mistakes, but sticking to the task at hand for as long as possible was necessary to get the job done!

There’s really nothing else I can do about it, the job has to be done.

Reframing the problem

Although I’ve accepted that I am back in the game, I refuse to accept having to go through that same process again. I decided that with my experience, I could find a better way, a more automated way.


I went through my old notes on the project from Trello and found that last time I had worked on it, I’d spent 44 total work hours on it. My work hours are 37 hours a week and at least half of those are regularly scheduled work, so we’re looking at around 3 weeks of work from my side if things go the same way.

The first obstacle is that a lot of files we need to keep linked were linked to the wrong location due to the shortcut we tried to go with. At some point in the process, we’ll have to get all these files linked up correctly. I decided that this obstacle was actually just a challenge I needed to crack and tackled that first.

Last night, after two hours of work, I had a solution in front of me, so I hit run and went to bed. 7 hours later I woke up and checked my computer to find that my solution was working, but still running and not even halfway through! And this was just the testing phase!

I stopped the process and sat down to rebuild my solution again. This morning I have spent another 2 hours working on it (should we say it’s 4 out of the 44?) and after 17 testing cycles, I have a final solution that completes everything in 37 minutes.

Because I decided the work was a challenge and not an obstacle, I was able to keep pushing myself to do it. Even though it’s the weekend and I shouldn’t be working really, I would much rather tackle the challenges now with automation and not have to deal with that 44 hour process at all. I’ve lost 4 hours so far, but I’ve also gained insight and satisfaction, so not too bad of a trade.

There are some final checks to make before I can be sure everything went as it should, but assuming that it did, I can now move on to tackling the next problem, taking inspiration from my latest solution to get there sooner.

Are there really obstacles in life, or are they all just challenges? Let me know what you think in the comments or drop me a message!



%d bloggers like this: