Early intervention

The problem: Although planning well there is still too much work and too many problems.
Although you do plan everything that needs to be done and you learned to estimate the needed hours for a particular work quite accurate you still wonder about the big amount of work. David Allen

The reason: Overcommitment in the past and late intervention.
When I heard the first time a talk of David Allen speaking about overcommitment I was not sure if he is right - there was some doubt because with a lot of work I never had the feeling that there is something I could commit or deny. A lot of work somehow falls into my competence and duty and I do not have a real choice.

I realized that overcommitment is a part of the reason but there is also another factor: When work hits me it is often already effects of something that could have been foreseen and avoided earlier or simply taken into consideration when planning. In addition to that there is a lot of unplanned work coming up by accident.

The solution: Early intervention.
As suffering comes from unhealthy actions in the past the key is to solve problems when they are still tiny and can be solved or circumnavigated easily. This does not mean that you should go and try to avoid every possibly negative experience. No, I am talking about "known issues".

To give an example: If your boss is often coming up with unexpected desires then the desires and exact times are not known - but you know that there will be rising some unexpected work. So you could schedule for example 1 hour a day dealing with unexpected work from your boss. If somehow now unexpected work is brought to you then you have an extra hour for other good work.

Another example: Ever needed to get in touch with a partner because of some questions arising while working on a project and noticed that the person is on vacation exactly in that week when you scheduled working on that project? - Just ask people in time about their plans so that you can adapt your schedule.

So, what to do?
  1. Analysis
    Get the scope and identify the problem or possible problems that come up often.
  2. Measuring
    Estimate the average time needed, evaluate available resources etc.
  3. Scheduling
    Schedule time for the unexpected or note down foreign appointments.
Be prepared and you solve the problem in advance.

I do use 4 calendars in my case:
  1. My own commitments
    That calender contains appointments that I have with customers but also commitments with self to get a particular thing done (internally).

  2. Probable upcoming work - listen to the environment, often there are little signs of possible work long before the work actually has to be done.
    For instance when customer calls with ideas for a new project. I can schedule it although the customer has not ordered anything yet. But moving around scheduled pieces of time is much easier than finding free space later.

  3. Foreign schedules
    In this calendar I do mark vacations or out-of-office times of important co-workers, partners and customers. This helps scheduling my own projects because it makes more sense scheduling work on a particular project within a week where I can ask the appropriate other people involved if questions come up.

  4. My wifes appointments
    This is another very good sample of early intervention: My wife was used to call me often in office when trying to fix an appointment with friends, doctors etc. Now she can see my calendar and I can see hers. So when talking with friends to get a free weekend she can look at my calendar and there is no need to call me for that in the office asking whether on that weekend there is IT-system changes at some customer.
Remember that you deal with repetitive problems you already now and which are part of your life. Do not try to solve issues that most probably never arise! You do not necessarily deal only with potential problems you know from your own experience but they should be at least in the category "known issues".

Related posts: Quickly change a habit, Safety distance, Eat the tadpoles, Analysis and therapy.

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