You pour your coffee, you sit down at your desk, you read a few emails, and then you turn your attention to your todo list.
You methodically map out your day and set objectives for what you are going to get done.
You plan on getting the report written before lunch and will focus on the proposal after lunch.
Then it happens.
The asshat from accounting comes over and wants clarification on some budgeting.
The design team needs more copy written for the Monday blog post launch.
Your boss wants to quickly chat about last week’s KPIs.
You go to lunch and feel overwhelmed with how little you have completed for the day.
Dumping work on others can be debilitating
Not too long ago I had one of those days…
You know, when nothing seems to be going right.
At my work we use Slack for instant messaging and team communication.
As I was working on a project my Slack app lit up like a Christmas tree. When someone directly mentions you the Slack notification looks a little different.
My immediate thought was, “Great what did I break this time”.
But luckily it was just my friendly coworkers needing some help on their projects.
All of the requests were simple enough, but all of them required 15+ minutes of my time.
By the end of getting them their deliverables I had no motivation to pick up where I left off.
My flow was ruined.
How to handle time suckers
It’s a delicate balance handling other’s requests of your time.
From the way I see it, the request falls into two camps.
- Get shit done
- Set expectations
Getting shit done method
This is how most people tend to handle the situation. When a request for action comes across your desk you jump on it. Better to just get it done then have it hang over your head or slow down the process.
Being honest with yourself, you weren’t being all that productive anyway and if you do work for others you have an excuse why your work isn’t getting completed.
In a way, you welcome the disruption because it allows you to use it as a crutch for completing your work.
But all the same, it detracts from your productivity, and if unmetered, will ruin your productivity completely and set a precedent.
This method is for those who are managers by trade and leaders by birth.
You have the willpower to understand that your time cannot be dictated without your direct consent.
You ask the coworker to submit requests through official channels, knowing full well that they will either ask someone else or solve the problem themselves.
You empower employees to seek answers from other sources and only allow projects to come across your desk when absolutely necessary.
This is a special trait reserved for the most productive members of teams.
But make no mistake. There is risk.
You risk your coworker sitting on a project because you didn’t get shit done.
You risk your coworkers not coming to you because they perceive that you aren’t helpful.
Where do you draw the line?
I have created a highly scientific, highly tested, 100% proven formula to help.
But the 80/20 rule can probably suit our needs.
80% of the time you should have requests for your time go through the proper channels (schedule a meeting, submit a pull request, right a proposal, ask another team member, etc).
20% of the time, you should drop what you are doing and get shit done so the project can get out the door.
If you disagree I would love to hear your thoughts on a better way to manage expectations and time when it comes to team members asking for help on projects.