We often get asked to do a quick job for someone. It won’t take us long. We can ether do it right away, or not do it, or put it off.

One question I always try to ask on a quick job: what are the timings on this?

It’s a small job, I know, I can see that. When do you need it by? You see, it might not be that urgent, and our lives are all about constantly judging a tray of priorities. The priority list is moving all the time, in work or play, with every new thing we do or are asked to do, no matter how small. Time is finite and we can’t do everything. If time was infinite we probably wouldn’t need to prioritise.

So does that person really need it doing right now? The good ones should be able to give you a fair response in terms of its urgency, even if they’re building in some buffer for themselves.

I’m not suggesting you ask about timings every time someone asks you to pass the salt – although makes for interesting dialogue if you refuse to pass it – but if it takes you out of the middle of something time-bound, you can’t re-prioritise without asking about timings. How often have you bust a gut to get something done quickly for someone, and they didn’t need it for ages?

Ask the question.