Getting Things Done in Time

GTDRachel (Boss) to the David (employee), “You said this work will be finished by weekend and today on Monday you are telling me that work is still not finished?”

David, “Sorry Rachel.”

Rachel, “What Sorry? Go finish what needs to be done and mail it to me by 2:00 o’clock today.”

David, “OK, Rachel.”

Work finished in time, would have made the situation easier for David as he would have avoided the ridicule and Rachel would have been able to share the complete report with management – not missing the part that David was supposed to work on.

Have you been in the situation like one above?

If yes then there are ways to try and avoid such situations.

For the one delegating

Write to delegate. Clearly outline the expected outcome. If you are sharing the task in person then after you have finished delegating make sure that the person executing the task understands it completely. One way of ensuring this is to ask what she has understood.

Check. If the task deadline is a week, then take time to check in middle of the week once or twice. If the project is mission critical then set daily checks. Just ask the person executing it to send daily update at 3pm sharing what is finished for that day. This will give you room for 2 hours to see and give any inputs which can be incorporated in the work further. Better use an online tool like Basecamp so that all involved can monitor the progress and provide inputs.

For the one executing

Add 20% extra time. There may be unforeseen situation and interruptions while you are at work, account for these. If you think work will take 4 hours then say that it will take 5 hours. You may have some urgent emails to respond to or calls to take while you are working on the task.

Do not procrastinate. Do not start the work when you are too close to deadline. This builds up stress and can affect quality of work. Better idea is to start working on task as soon as you are finished receiving the inputs. Invest sometime in preparation and thinking phase and then get on to action part. Never think about doing the work on weekend. Weekend is better spend finding the balance by engaging in fun and enriching activities; and work left-over from the week before is rarely that.

Break it in parts. It is possible to break any task in bite sized chunks. When you break a task in part it looks doable and you can measure your progress.

Delegate or ask for help. See if you have an opportunity to delegate. If somehow you have missed doing all the above and are close to missing the deadline; simply ask for help from colleagues, friends, life partner. Colleagues are better because they can understand in easily. Do not wait too late to ask for help.

How do you get the work done when faced with a deadline?

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  1. Puneet Arora

    Hi Mohit,

    My idea to cope up with deadlines is to set priority for the task in to do list and create a reminder in mobile phone for alerts.

    Job priority list can be of any type; no particular formats, like my list items are task description with deadlines and few action items(rough idea of how to finish) and is a day basis. I keep on updating it according to the status of the task. It’s a bit tough exercise but it helps me.

    What you say? What can I do better?

  2. Mohit Pawar

    Hi Puneet,

    You are doing it right. Try these;

    – Just see if can put estimated time next to you task list. For example if you have 3 tasks listed for the day you can assign 70 minutes to one task and remaining time for remaining 2 tasks.

    – It is better to make a new to-do list for every work day. Today’s list should not copy all unactioned items from yesterday; doing so clutters the day’s to-do list.

    – Keep 2-5 items on a to-do list; if there are more items then either the action belongs to a mid-long term action list or the person is procrastinating on day’s work doing fluff work (social networks, email, reading from variety of web based resources), not delegating or not asking enough for help.

    I would like to end it here; because simple is good.

    Still, if we were to elaborate, what you are using currently is a form of personal time-boxing. I am assuming that your work involves short-cycle software development (2 days to 2 weeks) – I’ll need more inputs from you on this. To share more.

    I am sure you have already done it, if not and also if the time permits then check;

    Going back to the list – a text file works fine. I personally use a notebook as a recording tool. You may also pick one of the following online options;

    RTM (remember the milk)

    Hope this helps.

    Joy and peace.. I wish all of us get out of the reading and writing online and get off to simply breathe, laugh and break bread with friends and family 🙂

  3. Mohit Pawar

    Puneet, good luck and thanks for sharing the videos. I knew about Dan Pink’s work but never heard of Prof. Zimbardo’s work. His take on time and its effect is unique and interesting.

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