Thursday, February 2, 2012

Using a Planner Part 3

At work, we have a system wherein my boss would give me a list of goals or jobs that he wants me to achieve or finish by the end of the year. This is how our performance is rated and determines how much our bonus will be as well as our increases and chances for promotion. These goals usually number between three to five depending on complexity and/or quantity of work.

Previously, I'd allot time each day to attend to these goals and, hopefully, finish them by the end of the year. I'd work on one of them for about one, two or three hours and move to the next one. Sometimes, I'd work on one of them for less than an hour.

This method has not been very efficient or effective. Every time I stopped working on one job, I have to reorient myself when I go back to it. Since I do this to all of my jobs, I kept trying to remember where I left off and what I should do next. This is the way my boss insisted I do things and I happen to be a very obedient employee.

In addition to these year-long goals, I also get numerous little jobs that need to get done. Everyday is a struggle to allot time to all these little things and the big important things. Include all the meetings I have to be in and you get an idea of how frustrated I feel with all the things that need to get done. In the final months of the year, I'm always working double-time to finish the year-long goals and still do all the other jobs required of me.

This year, I decided I'd change tactics. The way I thought about it goes like this:
Let's say I have five jobs I need to complete in five days. I could go about it in two ways:

  1. Allot about one hour and 36 minutes for each job per day.
  2. Work and complete one job per day.
Note that all five jobs will be finished within those five days using any of the two methods. So, working on all five jobs everyday is the same as working on one job per day. Potentially, at least in my case, working on one job per day may actually be faster since I won't have to re-orient my self.

Next, let's say that I have six jobs to do in five days. Let's also say that, in reality, these six jobs will need six days to complete. If I allot equal time per day to each job, I will finish none of them after five days. Not good, not good at all. However, if I work on one job per day, in five days, I will finish five of them. Five out of six is much better than zero out of six.

All this thinking has drawn me to the conclusion that working on one job at a time is the way to go. This year, therefore, I've scheduled my goals one after the other instead of trying to do them all at the same time.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to work on one job per day. Some jobs need to be set aside because it needs to wait for something else to happen or for someone to provide input which is not available right away. When that happens, I open the task in Outlook and type the date and what I did and what I need to do next. No more guessing or trying to remember. Then I move on to the next job on the list.<

I also used to dread receiving other, smaller jobs that my boss assigns to me. Lots of times, these jobs are urgent and need to be acted upon immediately. Not a problem anymore. Open the Task List, enter the details of the new task, update the task that I was doing before being interrupted and start on the new one. When I finish the new task, I update its status and click "Complete." It disappears from my active list and automatically goes into my list of completed jobs. Then I go back to the previous job.

That's one of the wonderful things about Outlook's Task List. I use the list of completed tasks to show my boss that I've been busy and actually done some work. It gives him an idea of how effective I am. It also tells him if I'm being assigned too many extra jobs. Last year I completed only four out of five goals I was given at the beginning of the year. Normally that would have initiated a lecture on being efficient or how it would affect my bonus or promotion. Seeing the long list of extra jobs, however, made my boss consider that I had been assigned a little too much.

Next up...tracking your progress.

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