Reactive or Proactive?

I found this over at Frank Patrick‘s blog.

Unfortunately, it’s rather close to home for me. Invariably, my To Do list for the day has items carried forward to the next day. This happens despite good efforts to avoid being an e-mail monkey (I try to check e-mail at three specific points during my working day, morning, noon and departure time less one hour). However, sometimes the ‘phone rings and I hear: “did you get my e-mail?”. Doh!

And then there’s the ‘phone. Folks don’t do it on purpose, but they do make a ‘phone call without realising that what you’re currently working on is important to you and has to be completed by 1600. Sadly, they expect you to give them your full attention. Your priority is explaining this schedule pressure to them such that they can call you back at a more suitable time…however the interruption still hits hard. I won’t mention my mobile ‘phone’s operator name, but suffice to say there are plenty of everyday places that I can’t get coverage! (So finding a spot with no mobile ‘phone coverage is easy!)

The location of my desk doesn’t help, it’s really close to the office’s kitchen door, so there’s a lot of human traffic…and I’m sure you all know what happens when office-folk see an IT guy: “oh, that reminds me, have you got a quick minute, my PC is doing something peculiar”. I usually respond with “a minute’s 60 seconds” and soon end up spending over 5 minutes away from my desk. I can only guess that “quick minute” means “more than 5 minutes”. Anyway, I digress.

I also suffer from being too helpful. It’s difficult to tell work colleagues to “clear off and raise a helpdesk call” (I was advised to use stronger language, but I’ve dumbed it down for this posting). Of course, with well-known colleagues, we do go through the ritual of “clear off”, “raise a helpdesk call”, etc. and it’s followed by some humour and a “quick minute” of my time.

So, I’m afraid to say that I find myself being too reactive. I am,however, going to take Anita Sharpe’s advice and see what happens (although I’m not sure about the shutting my computer down at 2030!)

Meanwhile, what am I trying to say in this posting?

  1. We can become less reactive if business takes the opportunity to educate users such that e-mail becomes a communication tool, not a stick for prodding folks into action.
  2. Should we make some or all of our schedule publicly available? Scrum promotes this visibility for project related progress, perhaps I’m hinting that we should adopt Scrum practices in other aspects of our lives?
  3. Other folks have priorities, we should respect that. Without wishing to boast, I only use the ‘phone when it’s absolutely necessary and I normally ask the person I’ve called if it’s a good time to speak. Scheduling and priorities are important, we should make a point of telling folks that “now is not a good time, can I call you back later” – try it, you’ll be surprised how receptive folks are to this.

If you thought that some of this posting sounded like time management, you’d be right: I’ve read a handful of books on TM, perhaps it’s sinking in now!