Posts Tagged ‘effective action’

Important or Urgent First

by Guy Ralfe on January 6, 2010

The following quote was shared with me this week:

One of the problems of government is to separate the urgent from the important and make sure you’re dealing with the important and don’t let the urgent drive out the important.”

by Henry Kissinger

Substitute ‘government’ with ‘management’ or ‘life’ and you have one of the challenges businesses and individuals face on a daily basis. I performed a quick search on ‘Important vs Urgent’ and there is no shortage of writings on this topic, although most reference Steven Covey’s book Seven Secrets of Highly Effective People. One of the secrets is “First Things First” which Covey then dedicated an entire book on the topic alone due to its significance called, First Things First.

Basically the teaching is that because we as humans are so emotionally driven in our approach to the world, we tend to prioritize the items that we like and avoid those that  make our hearts sink. Covey advocates that tasks should be evaluated on two independent dimensions of “Importance” and “Urgency” to help us identify the type of tasks and deal with them appropriately. The evaluation against these dimensions is relative to you the individual or organization you represents objectives.

This categorization produces 4 groups of tasks.

  1. Important and Urgent – Important to the individual or organization and with a date constraint. These task are generally highly prioritized and completed.
  2. Important and Not Urgent – Important to the individual or organization but no date constraint. Often described as the “nice to haves” – Like reading that book, starting a diet or for the organization would be great if we had that report automated. These tasks often get procrastinated, consume bandwidth and cause frustration. Decide to do these or quit them entirely.
  3. Not Important and Urgent – Unimportant to the individual/organization but will be important to others. These can often be difficult to identify, particularly that they are unimportant to you and that is the measure. These tasks you need to quit firmly or you will be consumed by the demands of others… the demands of others is endless! Quit these quickly and as many as possible.
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent – Pure time wasters! This is playing solitaire on the computer or business activities that just consume time and effort for no return. Stop doing these tasks and suddenly you will have added time and resource to deal with the more difficult tasks.

Once you have been able to categorize the tasks you know which you need to quit, and which you will easily perform and the outliers. Start with the outliers, but remember to reward yourself as you complete a number of the outlier tasks with an easy task or two as that will help maintain your mood.

Another quote by a Chinese writer and educator Lin Yutang expresses this well:

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone… The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.

Remote is Not as Far as You Think!

by Himanshu Jhamb on September 18, 2009

working remotelyOne of my friends who’s usually a ‘half-glass-full’ kind of person recently came to me in a seemingly ‘full-glass-empty’ kind of mood.  I was obviously concerned. After a couple of rounds of therapeutic beers (where I actually showed him what a ‘full-glass-empty’ really looks like) he opened up to the cause of his rare mood. He had just started a job where he was required to manage a project team … remotely! Not having worked in that configuration before, he was, obviously, feeling the teething problems of his new configuration. What made it even more challenging for him was that even his higher-ups were remote so not only he had to manage his team remotely but also he had to manage-up remotely.

Working remotely has its share of challenges. There is no doubt about it. Having managed remote teams for over 4 years now with varying team sizes, I can surely say that apart from the obvious challenge that you remain deprived of the tantalizing water cooler conversations; there are some unobvious ones that you need to be careful about lest they have the power of biting you where it hurts the most. However, with appropriate care, one can manage these challenges quite well. Here is the ABCD… of it:

(A)ctively Communicate: Take matters into your hands when no one does. Take initiative. A rule of thumb that I follow is: If it’s important and has taken more than 3 emails back and forth and is still not complete -its time to pick up the phone and call.

(B)e Reachable… always: Let your co-workers have your latest (and accurate) contact information so that they can reach you… it should be as convenient as walking to your desk, if you were not remote.

(C)ommunicate… and if needed, over-communicate: Yes, you will have people tell you (or maybe they’ll tell others) that you repeat yourself. Get comfortable with that complaint. Its usually a good sign when people tell you that – because it usually means you don’t have to worry about if you might not have communicated at all, which is a bigger problem.

(D)eliver on your commitments: This one obviously applies regardless of if you’re remote or not. However, this becomes even more critical if you’re remote because the level of trust you need to accumulate from your remote colleagues is more. Once you deliver on your commitments consistently and repeatedly, people will stop caring too much if you’re present in flesh and blood.

(E)ffective & Efficient Action: Since you will have little face to face time in your ‘remoteness’ make sure every action you take counts. In that, it needs to be effective and efficient. Hone your emailing and speaking skills. That’ll help you become more efficient (and effective).

(F)requent Communication: Here’s a powerful practice: Regardless of whether your boss asks or not, checks on you or not, takes status or not – Communicate frequently with him. Volunteer status updates. Ask questions that are relevant to business. Listen to him and help him do what he does, better. If you do this just frequently enough, it will be one less thing he would have to worry about… and that’s a good thing for you!

Yes… whoever said “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” did mean it in the business sense also! You just need to make sure you embody the practices to do so!