One resource we’re always short of is time. Be that at work or in our personal life, it always seems there’s never enough time to get all our tasks done on schedule. As a result, we often spend our days juggling multiple projects and tasks simultaneously with the hope of being able to somehow manage our tight workload.
This constant race against time is not only a very unhealthy condition to live in, but more importantly frequently produces results and outcomes that are at best mediocre and filled with mistakes and omissions. As such, unreasonable expectations, tight deadlines, and constant time-pressure generate a counter-productive and inefficient working atmosphere because:
Tasks will actually take a lot longer than they should
When you don’t have enough time to do your work, you tend to multi-task. In other words, you will be working on more than one task at a time to speed up the process. So for example, you could be scheduling that newsletter for tomorrow’s dispatch while returning several phone calls at the same time, or answering a few emails that seem urgent.
You may get more things done during the day, but what will suffer is the quality and accuracy of your work. You simply don’t have enough time to proof-read that newsletter or may end up scheduling it for 9 PM instead of 9 AM. And while you’re messing up your newsletter’s scheduled dispatch time, you may read one email and reply by mistake to another with information that you intended for the former.
You now have to reschedule that newsletter – which takes a lot of time – or send an apology letter to the second email recipient, and resend the information to the originally intended recipient. You just wasted a lot of time that you don’t really have.
Even if you don’t have enough time for your work, take as long as you need per task to get it done the right way. So reverting to the above example, you should put your phone on silence and keep your email client closed until you’re done scheduling the newsletter. Once that has been done and you double-checked your work, answer those pressing emails. And when you’re done with that, make those phone calls before you tackle your next task. The point is, if you handle one task at a time and don’t rush yourself, you’ll end up working faster as you won’t be repeating stuff over and over.
It becomes very stressful
There’s nothing wrong with feeling a sense of urgency while doing your work, but too much of that becomes stressful. Stress is neither healthy for you nor for the quality of your work. When you’re stressed out, you become oblivious to the obvious and again – make lots of mistakes and errors. Above all and beyond, you’re exhausted at the end of the day and feel like you’ve just ran a marathon, but not in a good sense.
No matter how busy you are, take plenty of breaks. Moreover, you should take walks while you’re on a break. (This will do wonders for your back.) And while you’re out there walking around the block (or the office), return those phone calls you’ve been meaning to attend to since the morning. This is one of those scenarios where multitasking is okay; walking and making phone calls. The point here is, avoid stress by all means so you keep a clear and focused mind.
Errors are inevitable
Have you ever noticed how ten people could read the same letter five times over, and all ten would be missing the same typo each time? Even if you have all the time in the world, mistakes are an inevitable part of life.
If you factor in enough time to allow yourself to read that letter again – preferably the next day – or even backward, you will for sure pickup any errors you haven’t before. When you’re really focused on a piece of work, your mind tends to stop seeing the obvious. If you’ve spent some time working on another task though and return to the previous one with a fresh mind, you will suddenly see all those typos or other mistakes you haven’t noticed before.
It therefore pays off to give yourself not only enough time to finish a task, but ideally also an extra day for one final review before sending your work onward and checking it off as done.
Time becomes the main KPI
When you’re constantly working against a massive to-do list, your most important key performance indicator (KPI) becomes “how many” tasks you’ve finished today. So you might have 30 tasks on your list in the morning, and you’ll feel great if you brought that down to five at the end of the day. You’re so obsessed with getting things done that you loose focus on the quality of your work.
This is no way to get any work done. Quality should always prevail, even if that means extensive delays. It doesn’t matter how urgent any given task is. If it’s not done properly, it’s not worth much. So before you enrage a client with a mediocre piece of work, apologize politely for any anticipated delays in advance, and then impress that same client with a super job.
Some things are simply beyond our control
In addition to all of the above, always keep in mind that there will always be elements that are beyond your control. So even if you planned out a project into the smallest details and allocated sufficient time, keep in mind that a critical team member may call in sick or be otherwise not available.
It doesn’t really matter how large and well-structured your organization is, there are always team members that are critical to a particular project, and that cannot be replaced in the eleventh hour. You should therefore always build in extra time buffers that you can use to bridge such incidents without jeopardizing the entire project – and your client’s satisfaction.
There isn’t really a perfect solution for dealing with the limited availability of time, or things going the wrong way unexpectedly. But what can take you a long way in mitigating unnecessary risks is being wise and foresightful when allocating time to milestones, tasks, and team members. Yes, your team of consultants could compile that urgent business plan your client needs in a month. But if you’re history demonstrates that it always takes two months, there isn’t really much point in making a commitment for anything sooner without risking to disappoint your client later on.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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