Archives for posts with tag: time

There are some jobs where deadlines are constantly present. Journalism for one.

There are also people who can’t seem to work unless they have a deadline in front of them. Are journlists in that category too? Some of them I guess.

The thing that many of us experience with working to deadlines is that the closer the deadline is, the more we get done. When you have to make a deadline you cut through the unnecessary and get to the nub of what your project is all about. This is fine for creating something with words, but when you’re involved with something that has an already defined process, like a complex sales process, one that you can’t bypass or cut short, then you’ve got problems. Then, it’s not your deadline, the end of your sales month for example, that counts, it’s your customer’s deadline.

With the more undefined processes, though, like writing for example, it pays me in my daily work to create deadlines to maximise my productivity. If there aren’t deadlines on a job, or the deadline is a long way from now, create an artificial deadline to work to. Or, split the project up into pieces and create mini-deadlines. For example, can I create two blog posts before lunchtime? Can I get the last page finished before this meeting starts? Can I reach the half way mark before the end of the day?

Of course, the risk you run with this approach is that you’re always producing shoddy, rushed work, work that would have benefitted form a little more time, and a less demanding deadline. That’s the balance between the two that we strive for: the best we can strive for versus the commercial reality imposed by time being money.

If you want to relax on your time off, and simply while away the time in those most luxurious moments when you have the luxury of time, then simply set no targets for the day, no objectives.

As an example, yesterday I set myself the goal of thinking up a blog post topic in the three minutes’ time I had before a call started. I came up with this one, and wrote it today.

Advertisements

To tender or not to tender, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind etc… when I worked in the sales effectiveness business, the golden rule was that your success rate for an unsolicited tender is between 0 and 5% – yep, a terrible return – for a host of factors too numerous to mention here. Perhaps for another post.

This is a statistic that should bring out the most sober analysis of how our business development time is best spent, but the truth is that it really applies to the private sector. The public sector is often duty-bound to go out to tender from a pretty low base contract value, and with increasing levels of sophistication at higher threshold amounts.

I decided to respond to my first tender in a long time last year. It was a pretty good fit for my skill-set, but it’s still an agonising decision to invest the considerable time into collecting references, getting legal documentation signed and writing the response.

I wanted to go through the process for the journey itself, to get a feel for it since it would better colour future decisions. I ended up winning the tender, and the reasons why you win are always invaluable when you do a ‘drains up’ – win or lose – with the awarding company.

Emboldened by the fact that I was batting 1,000 as the Americans would say, I promptly entered another tender, and lost it, thereby killing my excellent average.

So what can we conclude from this? My $0.02 is this. Unsolicited private sector tenders, don’t touch them. If you weren’t expecting it, you’re simply making up the numbers. Public sector tenders, if it’s a genuine project, and it’s worth it to you, and it’s a good fit, and you intuitively feel you’re in the top 3, it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring.

 

4 years blogging. That’s 620-odd Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts over 208 weeks. Blimey. It’s a long time, isn’t it? For nearly 7 and half per cent of my entire life, and roughly 20% of the existence of the medium, I’ve been blogging regularly.

The one thing that strikes me when I hit these milestones is this: where the bloody hell has the time gone and why is it going so damn fast? It doesn’t seem that long since I penned my first post on ‘domino chain’ theory, complete with fancy self-made picture.

Over this time I’ve stayed very true to the blog’s strapline, putting into words my ‘musings on things that I come into contact with’. True to that, I’ve written on a range of topics, from sales and marketing through to language and communication, behaviour and attitudes, cultures and conflicts, travel and tribulations.

As I’ve always said, I enjoy the discipline of penning the regular post, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the odd one too.

How long will I continue doing this? Well, to borrow from the gambling phrase that sits under all ads, at least in this country: when the fun stops, stop.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

Boredom is an appalling condition for a human being. Can you think back to all those hours at school when you weren’t stimulated, when you were bored beyond belief? It didn’t seem to matter as much back then, probably because a seemingly infinite existence stretched out in front of us.

What about your job? Does your job bore you?Do you suffer boredom between 9 and 5? Does it have boring bits?

Boredom is a scourge of modern life. It is the most abject waste of our precious time. We have to avoid it at all costs. No-one should ever be subjected to it. What bores us is probably repetitive so we should automate it where possible.

As soon as I find myself feeling ‘this is boring’ I try to change something about it.

Yes, avoid boredom at all costs. It can lead to no good and is the work of the devil, if such a thing exists.

When I’m in the UK, one of my colleagues and I travel to the office from different ends of a major motorway. I go north, he goes south, and then we reverse our journeys to go home at the end of the day.

His journey is invariably more snarled up than mine. A daily commute that regularly turns sour is a major source of mental ill-being in my opinion.

The other day I was returning to the office from an event and using the length of motorway my colleague uses, which is unusual for me. There was a stretch of roadworks on the motorway. It was about 20 miles in length and had a restricted speed limit of 50 miles an hour, with narrowed driving lanes and more traffic cones than you get grains of sand on a mile-wide beach.

The total amount of ‘road work’ activity on this 20-mile stretch, in mid-afternoon on a mid-week day? None. Not a single vehicle or worker. Zero activity.

This is the lost productivity of negligible roadworks. It’s the cumulative time lost for thousands of travellers, not to mention the increase in annoyance and frustration – increased enough for me to pen this blog 2 weeks after the fact – coming from having to drive at reduced speed for the guts of half an hour.

Who suffers? As usual, the individual. The private citizen, who is a customer of the infrastructure by virtue of having paid their road tax, and a bunch of other taxes besides.

 

I came across a new word the other day, courtesy of a link from a friend of mine that I also am lucky to work with occasionally. It’s called deloading. It’s taking proper down-time to recharge the batteries and ensure that when you get back on the horse you’re still super-productive.

The link is here. It’s written by a chap called Tim Ferriss, who many of you will know as the author of the 4-Hour Work Week, and other books on a similar theme. I thought he was a good bit older than he is. Not that he looks older, but that he seems to have packed an annoyingly large amount of stuff into his CV already.

You might know from my own blog that I’ve been an advocate of deloading for a long time, although I can honestly say I’ve never referred to it by that term. I guess I’ve always been practising the exercise of taking regular breaks, but not time-wasting breaks, from more run-of-the-mill activities like writing, work or study.

I guess you could boil it down to the time-honoured phrase that a change is as good as a rest. There is so much to be said for the productivity benefits of taking regular time out. It seems counter-intuitive that you can get more done in less and with less. Perhaps that’s the reason why many employers and managers are keen to get as much work time from their people as possible. But’s never been about the hours you put into work, it’s about the work you put into the hours.

Are you an overseller or an underseller? Is your default position overselling or underselling? I’m talking about either in a sales or a non-sales environment.

I’m generalising now, but I find that business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions are generally overselling.

‘Your table will be ready in a few minutes.’

‘I’ll have that fixed for you in a couple of moments.’

‘She should be back to you in a day or 2.’

It’s vague, intimate, approximate, and unreliable. The stakes aren’t too high, that’s why.

Business-to-business (B2B), however, is different, or should be. You want to under-promise, and undersell, so that you can overdeliver, and delight, your much-higher-stakes customer.

You find people are oversellers and undersellers too. Me, I’m always trying to be underselling. I try not to overpromise. I try to deliver early. I try to deliver more. Other people are not undersellers:

‘I’ll be back to the car in a couple of minutes.’

‘I’ll meet you there at midday.’

I’ll have it for you tomorrow.’

If you sell the dream, and the dream doesn’t appear when it should, you create disappointment, a phantom version of what you promised. When you let someone down, even in a microscopically small way, you create a microscopically small phantom.

The question is: do you care?

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.

I had a birthday the other day. I try not to work on my birthday – at least not a full day and certainly not more than a couple of hours in the home office.

What a great day it was. My mother was over and we pottered around, did a bit of shopping, had a leisurely lunch and then visited a few families and friends to shake hands and kiss babies – literally.

What a great day it was. How quickly it was over, though, and how long to wait until the next one, or even ’til Christmas when, to me at least, it feels like it’s everyone’s birthday at the same time.

So I’ve fixed this. I’m having more birthdays. Yup, more frequent birthdays is the way to go. I think somewhere between one a quarter and one a month is reasonable. I know the Queen has two birthdays a year, her natural one and her official one, but even that feel like nowhere near enough.

I don’t need you to send me a present for every one of my new birthdays, or even any of them. Simply send me happy birthday vibes, and that will suffice. I want that birthday buzz more often, and more birthdays is the way to get it.