Monday, 30 November 2009

Find time for Christmas

First day of December tomorrow. I’m going to try to start to get my workload under control so that I have time for Christmas. It’s a busy time and I have a significant backlog of things to do. But I do have lots of support – people who are willing to help in all sorts of ways. I’ve been trying to analyse some of the problems: one is that I underestimate how long things will take. This from an ex professional project manager is quite an admission! But, for example, I had hoped today to have an hour at 4-ish this afternoon to think about this blog entry – it’s now 10:30pm! Nothing has gone wrong – just things took longer than I thought. Another is task switching, I’m sure. Finding all the info about a particular activity takes time so with several on the go (I’m not going to own up to multi-tasking) this is a significant overhead.

I’m also looking hard at e-mail communications. There are lots of apocryphal stories: I remember hearing about a work colleague who only reacted to the second e-mail on any topic (the one beginning ‘did you get my note about....’) He argued that if it was important they’d send the second note, otherwise someone else would respond. Another suggestion was not to respond to any e-mail on which you were copied, i.e. not a direct addressee. Another is to keep the addressee lists as short as possible. I’m not sure that any of these are realistic.

I’ve already started trying to phone rather than e-mail where this is appropriate. The advantage is that usually the point can be resolved immediately. There are disadvantages, too: only one other person can take place and he or she must be there when the call is made. An e-mail has the advantage of being asynchronous. But the volume of e-mails is rather daunting: I was away from Tuesday last week, returning on Friday afternoon: I had 150 e-mails in my inbox. Quite a few were marketing ones (do you get several e-mails a day from Vistaprint?) but there were still 100-odd significant ones.

So to start, I’m going to try the following:

  • Be ruthless with the diary: plan to spend periods on certain activities and keep to the plan as much as possible

  • Manage e-mail activity down: telephone if practical, don’t perpetuate large distribution lists and don’t respond unless contributing – although a simple acknowledgement that a message has been received is often important

  • One thing at a time: complete an activity before switching; we used to call this ‘completed staff work’

Do you want to try with me?

1 comment:

rosie said...

The funny thing is that in the Times this morning they reckon that emails are dying out. Young people don't do it any more! Too slow! I have to text my kids if I send them an email to remind them to look -so they might have a point. Picking up the phone is certainly better -and often gets a solution faster, but you do have to chat -a least a little.