Time Management: What Happened to Respect For Immediacy?
Joanne Gore – Vice President – Xplor Canada
I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression: “There’s never enough time to do the job right…but there’s always enough time to do it over”.
In today’s world of “ten jobs making their way through the shop in the next hour” this has never been more true. How often do you hear the words: urgent; as soon as possible; how quickly can I get this; and my all time favourite: this shouldn’t take any time at all.
How many times have you used those very same words? With your own suppliers or co-workers?
What impact does this have on business? What impact does this sense of urgency have on productivity…and morale?
The definition of immediacy is: the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement. (source: google). But where do we draw the line. How do we prioritize when everything is seemingly of highest priority?
In today’s “always on” world, we seem to have lost respect for the word, immediacy.
In a world that is wracked with demands, deadlines and deliverables, it’s difficult to be hyper-responsive. Making matters worse, constant interruptions deemed “urgent” can grind productivity to a halt. Once you become distracted, it’s easy to let other priorities come to the forefront, making that earlier, urgent task, stall … pushing it down the priority stack.
As a result, we find ourselves rushing to completion. We multi-task, cut corners, and scramble to meet deadlines, sometimes leading to costly mistakes. Making matters worse, our inboxes are flooded and it’s getting harder and harder to deliver an acceptable level of response. Does the customer take precedent over the employee, who may be facing a customer issue of their own? Does rank outweigh rationale? And how important is reciprocation?
We are so overwhelmed that we cannot, and simply do not, respond to everything. In fact, it has become more and more acceptable to simply not respond at all. Think about that. It is acceptable to not respond! However, by not responding you are communicating a very powerful message to the sender. A message of, “it doesn’t matter”.
Perhaps you’re avoiding the issue and hope that by ignoring it, it will just go away; or perhaps you aren’t quite sure how to respond. However, in most cases it’s simply a matter of not having a high enough priority. It becomes deemed “not important”. Because if it’s not a priority to you, then it doesn’t matter. Right?
How do you determine what is an appropriate response time? While you cannot predict for every scenario, if you set out a minimum (immediate) to maximum (for me it’s 2 days) response, then you have a foundation upon which to build. From there, you need to consider:
- What type of message is it? (Email, voice mail, meeting request, skype, text, etc.)
- Who is it from?
- (External: customer, vendor, prospect, job applicant, media, analyst, etc.
- Internal: department, role (ie: manager, supervisor, etc.), seniority, board of directors, owners, parent company, etc.
- How urgent is it…really?
- Is there a due date provided?
- Does it impact other deliverables?
- Is it a “do-over”?
- How much time is required to fulfill the task?
- What resources/additional resources are required to fulfill the task? (other departments, outside vendors, etc.)
- What’s at stake?
Once you have a hold on how to prioritize your response time, stick to it. Use a calendar. Schedule time to respond to some of the lower-priority items/people…not everything is urgent, but it still needs to get done.
And be sure to communicate your SLAs to each of your stakeholders, both inside as well as outside your company. Invest in productivity tools. Go online and seek out productivity hacks…there are MANY to be found. (a quick search of the term: productivity hacks at work, displayed nearly 7 million results!) Rediscover respect for immediacy.
You don’t need to be a “whack-a-mole”, popping up to answer every message as soon as it hits your inbox. But arbitrarily deeming what is a priority, without factoring how your triage of these events impacts your colleagues, your business associates, customers and prospects, can result in a negative impact to your business.