Would you rather have one thing done today? Or two, tomorrow?
In today’s age, we feel pressured, both by ourselves and our superiors, to ‘multi-task.’ Of course, no one truly can multi-task, countless studies and derivative articles have shown that (just do a search). What we really do, is focus on one item at a time, switching between tasks very quickly. The more items on our plate, the more complex, and the harder it is for our minds to push aside the current task and change to the next…or the next, or…
In the world of information technology it is increasingly common to expect we ‘do more with less.’ I’m sure you’ve heard it. This naturally translates to more multitasking, more complex tasks, and an expectation of quicker response times. As a manager, it is important to guard against your staff becoming over burdened as a result of your own actions or by their being self-imposed.
The simple reality is that care needs to be practiced in finding the right balance. Too many task items, too significant a demand, and the less productive and effective the team’s results are. And, we’ve not addressed quality. The tangible results become high stress levels, poorly executed projects, poor quality, missed time lines, and correspondingly low satisfaction by all involved. On the business front, this can mean negative customer experience, missed market windows, and lower bottom-line revenue.
One stark example will remain in my memory. One of my managers was having an exceptionally hard time getting things done. Increasingly our customers were complaining. It seemed at odds with what I knew. This person was a strong performer, enjoyed his work (save for the stress), and delivered quality…increasingly ‘when’ projects were completed. Largely self-imposed, he had taken on so many tasks, promised so much to so many, he was simply awash in multiple tasks he was unable to deliver on. Writing it down covered a whiteboard with over 70 discrete deliverables (no wonder he was struggling). The solution: Pick a small number, no more than 5, and get them done. Forget all the rest (for now), and just focus on doing 5. At least ‘5’ will get done.
So, would you rather have one thing done today? Or, 70 ‘sometime’? For many an IT organization, if you’re feeling pressured to do everything and anything expected of you, my recommendation is, adjust expectations and don’t. Look at what you can accomplish. Make sure you do accomplish it. Adjust internal expectations (over time). It’s an item I’ve had to relearn myself time and again.