Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekly Tip - maintain a fixed list for your repeated actions

We all procrastinate, and there are plenty of great books on the subject, such as Eat that frog by Brian Tracy. This tip is associated with procrastination but it's really just a simple idea to stop stress building up over the little stuff turning into a mountain that needs to be conquered. I would however recommend this for anyone who has to perform repeated tasks in their life that seem to get in the way of the important things;

In summary;
  • Maintain a list of actions that you repeat at regular intervals
  • Refer to and work the list on a regular basis
  • Only put must do items on the list
At this point, if you are thinking that you always stay on top of your regular actions and wonder what I'm talking about, then I am very jealous, and please carry on the way you are! On the other hand, if you, or maybe someone in your team is ill prepared for team meetings and the monthly reporting is always late, then please read on...

Maintain a list of actions that you repeat at regular intervals
So you may be thinking, why not just put a repeat calender entry in you email client? or a repeating task in your task app? Well my tip is based on experience, and I've tried everything, and every trick ended up with me thinking that procrastination, too much work, other priorities and trivial nature of some of the tasks were the reason for not doing them.

The real reason was that I didn't see the value of many of the actions, such as weekly reports, checking tasks, time sheet submissions and so on. Mainly because if I didn't do them, often nobody would call me on it, and if they did, I could say that I had other, more important priorities. So my thinking was, little or no value, don't bother!

This was where I was wrong, as the value of doing these tasks are cumulative and it may take months or even years to reap its rewards.

Refer to and work the list on a regular basis
To make sure you stay on top of your tasks, referring to the list will make it easier to update and think about other tasks you may need to do. It's also good when you are being pressured to take on more work, it may trigger you to remember that you have the month end report to do and the essential one on one's with your team.

As days weeks and months go by, building up your own repeating tasks give you a real sense of how much time you are spending on them, in addition, the tasks become easier as you do them regularly, and your stakeholders, be it your manager, peers, directs or customers will begin to see you as reliable and trustworthy, constantly reinforcing that you are on top of stuff and can deliver.

Only put must do items on the list
There is a requirements prioritisation technique I like called the MoSCoW analysis. It puts the requirements in order of things that;

  • Must be done to make the thing work (usually agreements made with others)
  • Should be done to make it really effective (usually agreements you've made just to yourself)
  • Could be done because it would be cool, added extra (Perhaps a suggestion or idea)
  • Won't be done because it's a waste of time (Re-negotiate your agreements if you need to)
Now make sure you only choose your Musts for this list. If you really want a should on your list, then make an agreement some how to get it there. For example, if you want to read the economist, then agree with your manager to provide a summary of your favourite article each month. Otherwise, you are devaluing the list.

If, after six months or so you are working the list without issue, let maybe one or two should do items creep on, but I wouldn't do too much too soon, as this is a drill for the stuff you must do to keep your professional reputation for delivery going.

So to recap, get a list together of all those must do things that you repeat on a regular basis, and do them!

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