Deadline Setting is a Team Sport

Urgent!  Top Priority!  A.S.A.P. These are the deadlines routinely issued today by superiors, customers and clients.  Whether issued in the Subject line of an e-mail, the closing minutes of a meeting or via a voice mail, these mandates suggest that all current activity must stop immediately and that full attention be directed the new assignment.

The problem with this type of deadline setting is that it has become common place and is attached to all manner of work delegation – both urgent and … well … less than urgent (to be polite).   The quandaries this behavior creates are numerous:

  • If I have five “Urgents” on my to-do list, which one do I do first?
  • Why is an assignment recipient being asked to shoulder the responsibility of gleaning the true deadline in play on any particular piece of work?
  • Isn’t deadline setting a managerial responsibility most logically expected of the assignment giver?
  • And, if the assignment giver is just shoving the assignment downstream in the same manner it was received from above, doesn’t this notion of who’s responsibility it is to determine an actual due date and time even more pressing?

Lazy Deadlining

Lazy Deadlining is what it is.  Work givers using these deadlines at all levels have simply abdicated their responsibility to determine when a specific piece of work must actually be accomplished.


No Snow Day For Me! The Benefits of Being Virtual

This is a guest post authored by Jessica Levin, professional speaker and principal in Seven Degrees Communication.

It snowed today. Again. Schools are closed. Offices are closed. Many, many people are losing productivity and many businesses are losing money. I, however, am toasty warm working from my office. Sure, I had a meeting canceled today, but I am still am able to get all of my other work done. Why? Because I work 100% virtually.

I didn’t set out to be virtual. It started when I worked in NYC and would occasionally work from home. It then turned into Fridays. When our office was closing and we needed to move buildings, it didn’t make sense for me to get another office. When I think back to that commute and how unproductive it was, working virtually was one of the best decisions I could have made.

A lot of companies don’t want employees working from home for various reasons. I think trust has a lot to do with it. I also understand that this structure doesn’t work for all job types and not everyone has the discipline to “go to work” while they are in their home.

Here is a little glimpse of how I operate. I hope it helps you to understand how easy it can be.


Taming The Beast – Making E-mail Work For You – Part 3 of 3

The first installment of this series focused on the Pavlovian response we’ve developed with e-mail – the constant need to check it – and recommended that we turn off the new message alerts and regularly batch process our e-mail in the same fashion that we process our postal mail.  The second installment drilled down into how to better craft our e-mails.  Specifically, we found that placing only one subject in each e-mail we send greatly reduces the risk of miscommunication (and it’s cousin – wasted time) and increases the ability to find and file individual e-mails.  We also concluded that writing strong, clear and communicative subjects in the Subject field of each e-mail sped up processing time and facilitated filing and retrieval.

This third and final installment will address another pesky behavior we’ve developed with e-mail and we’ll learn a nifty feature in Microsoft Outlook which many of my clients say is the best trick they’ve every learned about Outlook.


Taming The Beast – Making E-mail Work For You – Part 2 of 3

Getting Up To Speed

Part 1 in this series looked at how our love-hate relationship with e-mail developed.  It proposed changing our perspective to better align our expectations with what e-mail actually is and does – a modern way of doing something we’ve long done otherwise (send communiques).  Finally, the first missive provided two suggestions to help you regain command of e-mail by reducing the stress it causes and by increasing your efficiently when using this powerful tool.  I refer you to that article for a more in-depth discussion of those topics.

This installment turns to individual e-mails and looks at a couple of tips that will make each e-mail more effective and efficient.


Responding Versus Responsiveness

I’m a productivity guy.  It’s what I do.  As a result there are two cardinal rules in my world.  First, never be late.  It’s not only poor form, it displays a complete lack of command for the concept of time management!  I’ve often had clients joke that they couldn’t believe THEY were late for a meeting with the “time management guy,” but it’s not a reputation someone in my field can survive.

The second rule of thumb is to be responsive – highly responsive. I take it very seriously.  To me, responsiveness is the essence of good relationship management.  When my clients are confident that I will get back to them in a timely manner with information that assists them in their efforts, we have a strong relationship.  Not only is that good for my business, it makes working with my clients a pleasure.

When I talk about responsiveness (in conjunction with its siblings – efficiency and effectiveness), I often find that people confuse “responding” with “responsiveness.” Understanding this distinction is important to your individual productivity and success.  This article outlines some of the distinctions between each, and lists their relative advantages and disadvantages.  Some suggestions for improving both are also included.


The Three Rhythms of Workflow – Getting and Staying in the Groove

It’s been a rock and roll day here at QuietSpacing(R) central.  Monday’s always are … for most of us.  Between all the things I shoved into this week from last week, the things everyone else shoved into this week, and the collective exigencies that popped up over the weekend, it’s a wonder Monday ever ends!

I felt myself ease into the groove right way, first reviewing the landscape of the day, then triaging all the e-mails that had arrived overnight.  The collective pulse rose as people started calling and the activity level all around me increased.  Soon, I was responding to client and employee requests for my attention, while I also re-scripted a presentation I wanted to record for the web. 

The middle of the day heaved over and as the afternoon drew out in front of me, I found myself contending with several technical issues.  By mid-afternoon it was time to get a number of things done out of the office, so into the world I went.  The relative quiet of the outside world was a welcome relief to the mounting pressure building in the office.  E-mails weren’t quite as urgent as keeping my eyes on the road and phone calls were taken more selectively.

With the errands complete, I returned to the office for a final triage before heading out into the drizzle for a run. 


QuickTip: Four Tips to Being More Responsive

Responsiveness is different than responding. Responding is an acknowledgement like “Okay, I’ll get right on that.” Responsiveness is a substantive communication, such as, “I’ve reviewed the materials you sent me and I think we should go forward.” We spend much of our day responding to others, but it’s when we’re truly responsive that we’re being[…]

QuickTip: 4 Ways to Minimize Interruptions and Distractions

We are bombarded by interruptions and distractions all day long. They affect our focus and cause us to lose time getting back up to speed. If we can increase our productivity by just six minutes each day, we’ll increase our productivity by 24 hours each year. That’s three days of production this year over last![…]

QuickTip: 4 Tips to Better Command Your Workload

We entered the workforce well educated, but few entered well skilled.  Gaining skills on the subject matter of your job is critically important, but so too are skills for managing how you actually get your work done.  Workflow processing and organizational skills focus on the actual completion of your work – how efficiently you accomplish[…]

QuickTip: Saving E-mails As Files

I just read a terrific post by the Time Managmenet Ninja titled 5 Swft Tips To Help Empty Your Inbox.  Each of these simple recommendations can make managing your e-mail easier.  I added one suggestion to the post and thought it worthy of posting here too! The suggestion was to save e-mails as files outside of[…]