I was working on a proposal this afternoon when the phone rang. It was my bookkeeper telling me that we needed to set up a meeting with one of our clients. In the midst of that call, another client called to ask if I’d had time to review her book. Finally, my wife called to let me know she was getting off work and was headed home. Being the love of my life, I chit-chatted with her for a little while as she made her way onto the highway.
Each of these tasks took me away from the task that I had at hand for the afternoon: to complete the proposal, review it three times and send it out to the appropriate parties. With the interruptions I’d had throughout the afternoon, it took me twice as long to complete the proposal, and some of the work I’d hoped to get done didn’t get done when I wanted it to.
Now…what will that look like at the end of the year? It is kind of like watching a snow plow when it first begins moving snow…at first, it has a little snow on the blade, rolling over and over. After a while, they are pushing show up six feet in the air, lumbering along, appearing as though they will never complete their task.
Managing time, work and interruptions is a goal that so many people have and fight with throughout the day. It becomes a game of priorities – what is right in front of them, what are people asking for the most, what looks interesting and what is that thing that is constantly pushing to the back of my desk.
What would be interesting would be learning how to manage chaos. As in, provide room in your schedule for a certain amount of uncertainty or chaos. If we looked at time the way we look at manufacturing, we would say that we have a laxed production schedule, which allows for anomalies in the production line. From another perspective, at times, we don’t leave room in our schedules for other things.
Taking a thought from Project Management, if we determine at the beginning of the week what critical things must be done and by when (the critical path), we begin to see a clearer picture of what can be done. So we stop looking at how much gets done, and focus more on what IMPORTANT things get done, and ensure that they get done.
Think about a UPS driver. Their sole goal is to deliver packages. That is all they have to do. However, they run into problems such as traffic, customers who aren’t where they are supposed to be, heavy loads and packages, damaged items, etc. Regardless of the interruption, once completed, they are clearly focused on their next goal.
Now, taking that a step further, they have four sets of priority deliveries – the early morning priority, the before 12:00 priority, business deliveries (before 5:00) and residential deliveries (before 7:00). How likely is it that they will drop off a residential delivery before 8:00 am? What about dropping off a 12:00 delivery after 5:00? It’s more likely that a residential delivery will be a day late then their missing an 8:00 delivery.
Why is that? Because they have an understanding of priorities. They know what has to be delivered to who, when. They also understand chaos, and build it into their schedule, and update that schedule as things change. Therefore, putting together that presentation, uninterrupted, would normally take two hours. However, with the realization that there are going to be unplanned events, maybe setting aside three hours to do the presentation is the best course of action to take.
As an Extraordinary Leader, you’ve got to plan for the unexpected. At the same time, you’ve got to get things done. We don’t have options when it comes to expectations. If our clients expect us to be late, expect our product or service to be sub par, expect our customer service to be inattentive, how can they expect us to be extraordinary?
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