Planning time usage efficiently – don’t ass-U-me

questionsWe all have a tendency to put off things we don’t like doing. Tax returns, expenses claims….. project documentation. Especially documenting details, outcomes and evidence of tasks we are performing.

Now in the world of personal productivity and time management, one of the key principles is to only touch something – a task, a piece of paper, an e-mail – twice (at this point I expect many people are saying NO! that should be once, but bear with me). The first touch is to assess the item – can I deal with it now, can I delegate it, can I just discard it, or do I need to plan the time to deal with it. The second touch is to actually deal with it as decided in step 1. See the dilemma faced by the pointy haired boss below…

One touch - Dilbert cartoon

DILBERT © 2014 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved

Most of don’t take a two step approach – we repeat step 1 several times over because we are indecisive about how to handle the item.

Now let’s extrapolate that into a real situation I came across recently in a programme I was involved in. A number of products, all of a similar nature, had to be delivered and handed over to the business as usual (BAU) function in a very short space of time. Each had to have a number of artefacts present to enable the handover.

Now the project manager had planned on the assumption of the two touch principle, with him completing step 1 – decision: deal with it right away, and the team member assumed to undertake step 2 immediately noting the details of the artefact, taking a screen shot as evidence etc. Now the problem came about when the team member didn’t know about the decision at step 1 and decided to procrastinate or defer step 2.

The end result was the products couldn’t be handed over to BAU because not all the artefacts were present. Big problem. In fact, a growing problem as the number of products without a full set of artefacts began to mount up. Now the project team were faced with going back and rectifying or creating the missing artefacts. But this was much harder and more time-consuming than planned. They had to remember what they had done. Look up information that had been readily to hand originally etc. etc. And as this was a rolling programme, the team had to do this re-work alongside the planned work. Nightmare!

So the moral of this little ‘case study’ is planning to minimise information handling is great and can be really efficient – but only if you tell the people doing the work how it’s all supposed to happen. Don’t ass-u-me because it will make an ass of U & me.

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