What’s up, Doc

I’ve been promising myself for days to update my blog. I’ve got great excuses for how long it’s taken me to get back to it. Extensive “Fall Cleaning,” preparation for my mother’s visit, entertaining my Mom for about two weeks, projects I took on for one of my brothers — yada, yada, yada. So, finally I’m taking charge and forcing myself to do what needs to be done: I’m not allowing myself to do anything else today until the blog is updated. I won’t even do my daily publishing of an article on the main portion of this site until the blog update is finished. Sometimes the “inner parent” has to grab the “inner child” and say “grow up and take care of your responsibilities!”

First, let me tell you about some articles of my own that I published over the last three weeks:

When You Should Have A Messy Desk. As a performance and productivity expert, I know the value of organization and systemization. I’ve written several articles on this site about how essential they are. But, really, some of folks seem to develop intricate systems for keeping an office so neat that it is sterile and looks as though no one actually would think of working there. Hey, desks were made as work surfaces, not all work is done on computers, and you actually need to see the stuff you’re working on. I don’t actually believe in messy, disorganized desks. I just have a rant going about them being workplace tools rather than surfaces upon which a surgeon could operate.

Patience, Work and Limits. Whether you work for someone else or work for yourself, you will be faced with interruptions, unpleasant tasks and others’ unrealistic expectations. Learning to cope with those events requires you to set limits or boundaries for yourself and others.

Slow and Steady Wins the Performance and Productivity Race. Timing and persistance, supported by organization and a systematic approach, get more done in the long run than intermittent “leaps and bounds.” The story of the tortoise and the hare has some real value for performance and productivity management.

Also, while I encourage you to browse the descriptions of all the most recent articles I’ve published, I’d like to call your attention to a couple of excellent guest articles:

30 Online and Offline Networking Resources. Facebook and Twitter may be the hottest social networking kids on the block, but many businesses both large and small don’t really find them appropriate for their networking efforts. This list by Stephanie Chandler doesn’t even give them a mention, but does give some excellent links.

Winning at Working: Career Stock Rising. Here’s a great viewpoint from Nan Russell on the value of seeing your time use in terms of return on investment. It works for both the employed and self-employed.

Time shift happens

Yesterday’s guest article for Superperformance.com was Can You Really Make Up For Lost Time? by Bryan Beckstead. His theme is that the use of time is valuable and the opportunity for getting the planned work done is not fully replaceable. He argues that shifting one day’s lost work to another day displaces at least some, if not most of the second day’s work, which then must be shifted to yet another day.

He’s right, if you assume that all the work being shifted is something that has to be done, that it has to be done all on the same day and that you have to do it all yourself, as originally planned and without help. In the context of today’s “lean” organizations (large and small) that assumption often holds. So, in that context, it is very, very difficult to make up for lost time.

Yet, interruptions, distractions and emergencies happen. You can cope with them by giving yourself as flexible a schedule as possible, acknowledging that they occur. And while Beckstead is writing primarily about wasting time and spelling out the consequences of doing it, the consequences are the same whether you waste your own time or others waste it for you. They are the same if you have a sick day. They are the same if your boss can’t make a conference and sends you in his place. They are the same if you actually have too much work to do in one day.

All of that means that you need to find ways to deal with it effectively when your plan or schedule for your time/task has failed in any way. Regardless of what happened or who caused it.

1. First ask yourself if there are to-do’s that don’t actually have to be done, either from the lost work schedule or from the current one to which you are shifting. If so, cut them. This is essential because most people over-schedule, and most add items that would be nice, but are unneeded.

2. Re-examine the work schedule for inefficiencies. Are you doing things in the right order? At the right time? If you re-ordered your schedule, would you be able to get some items done faster and therefore fit more work into the time? Do all the things on your schedule have to be done on that particular day. Look at the whole week. When else can you do what needs to be done?

3. Get help. Even if you have wasted time and you are responsible for the debacle, the work still needs doing. If you can’t fit it in the time available, get someone else to help you with it. Remember, the help doesn’t have to be with any particular work, you can get someone to help you with work that doesn’t require your expertise so that you can do the work only you can do. This is particularly important to note for people like solo entrepreneurs who tend to try to do everything for themselves. For example, if you are a painter, you can get someone to, say, answer phones and return calls while you go paint a house. Or you could trade work with a friend at the office. I know a woman whose friend, Betty, helped her finish a report that had to be in by Friday, and on Saturday, she went to Betty’s house and pre-cooked and froze the week’s meals for the family to return the favor.

It’s best if you don’t waste your own time and have to pay for it, but when you lose time, it is difficult, not a tragedy. Shift happens. Be ready for it and know what to do. You may not be able to get the time back, but you can always find a way to get the work done.