Tuesday, August 28, 2007

[scheduling breaks] life or death situation

Chronic lateness has been put down to everything from lack of sleep to ego.

I've previously posted on the absolute necessity for sleep, why schedules fail and scheduling "buffer" breaks. Three answers came from clients today:

1. the fear of wasting even a few minutes to the point of leaving at the last minute;

2. perfectionism and the inability to delegate;

3. trying to cram as much in as possible - this can be related to greed but not always.

Case 1

Take "A", a businesswoman and mother who's running a balancing act 24/7. She knows that if she leaves the office at 11:30, she can get to me unstressed but if she leaves at 11:33, it causes all sorts of problems.

Couple this with the need to justify the moments spent in the car by doing two or three other jobs "on the way", thereby satisfying someone else [who?] that time is not being wasted. Trouble is, pulling the car over and thinking: "I'll just pop in and …" hardly ever takes account of reality.

It is never "just a minute", as the old lady fumbling with the change in front of you drags that out nicely to six or seven minutes and the vague youth behind her adds another two minutes.

Having given yourself this task and feeling a failure if all three jobs aren't done, you try "on-the-road" task N2 but this involves going onto another street and then there is a traffic jam.

So, eight minutes late for your appointment, having failed in one of the jobs and stressed out from hurrying on the road and answering five calls on the mobile during this time, you plonk yourself down in the armchair and Higham says: "Relax!"

If you had a system of delegation, you'd have farmed out those jobs last evening [nothing's going to change before next morning] and everyone will know what he has to do. You very politely and gently extricate yourself at 11:25, promising to deal with all matters the instant you return to the office and somehow, by not caring about time, the road seems to open up before you.

This is no accident - everyone else is rushing so if you don't, you create spaces in the traffic you wouldn't ordinarily see and the result is either that when the unforeseen traffic jam comes up, you still get there with a minute to spare but if it doesn't eventuate, you get close to McDonalds seven minutes early and can drive through and get a salad and tea.

Case 2

I asked "C" on Saturday why she couldn't switch off her mobile phone even for fifteen minutes.

"I'd lose business."

"What if everyone who deals with you knew you had an important meeting at 16:30 and couldn't be contacted for 20 minutes? Surely they'd phone after the 20 minutes."

"Not all."

"Then do you want such people as partners? Aren't they going to bring you grief in the long term?"

She's now repetitively stroking her hair. "You don't understand, James. Often it's something I want myself from them and I have to go to meet that person - there's no time."

"Why can't you do a quick calculation and if you know it will take you 20 minutes, ask the potential partner if 45 minutes is OK? Then use 12 of those minutes sitting in a café, with a tea or coffee, going over your thoughts and the last 8 watching the wall TV or staring into space."

"I can't do that."

"Why not? Are you frightened to contradict the partner so early in negotiations? Do you think he really thinks you're a lazy person? He doesn't know what you have on your schedule - so schedule in a buffer just for yourself. A little victory for the day. Or is it something psychological in yourself that every minute must be accounted for?"


"Tell me, C, if you suddenly found yourself with a spare 7 minutes, could you flop down on the divan and wickedly do absolutely nothing, would you fill it doing two or three of that backlog of jobs that you and no one else knows how to do or would you get to your next appointment early?"

Smile. "Could you lie on the divan?"

"Yes and plan out the rest of the day."

"But that's not lazy."

"Relaxing enough to give yourself thinking time is never lazy. It's staying sane."


Christine O'Kelly has an item on e-mail obsession and how it eats time. While I agree it is good to have a system, all clients today disagreed that you should only check once a week.

My method, for what it's worth, is to keep two windows going - my site and Google Reader and the other my e-mail on the whole time I'm online. A pop-up lower right tells me if anything has arrived. When offline, I lose all interest in people contacting me and concentrate on the client.

I stay in dial-up because it prevents people from interrupting me plus it's cheap. Don't know if that's the best way but it works for me. for now.


Bag said...

I think it depends very much on where you are on the ladder.

If you are higher than the person making the call then they will call back if not they may go somewhere else and you may lose out.

This sort of philosophy is pretty meaningless to those who are on the way up. They want to take every advantage of handholds and help as they can get and each missed opportunity is potentially important.

That is why building trust relationships is so important. People want to know now what is going on but will wait if they know someone is trustworthy enough to get it done. If you want to get on you need to be available quickly, be reliable and reasonably easy to get hold of or provide a difficult to get hold of service.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Ah, the Martini syndrome - you have to be available any time, any place, anywhere. I used to get really mad wih people who didn't have to work but still insisted on travelling and fumbling with change on the bus at peak time in the morning in Cardiff. Why couldn't they wait half an hour? I'd arrive at work stressed out before the day had started. One thing I did do was to tell everyone I would not answer phone or door between 7 - 7.15 pm because of "The Archers": it was my oasis in the day and I felt I deserved it!

Odiyya said...

This is the best wisdom i've read in a couple of weeks.

My words for it are "you define your own reactions". If you are always rushed by external circumstances, chances are you're the most active party in creating those circumstances. Great post.

Sir James Robison said...

Bag - think you're right about those climbing the greasy pole.

Welshcakes - Martini syndrome?

Odiyya - thank you kindly.