Monday, September 6, 2010

Can it wait?

   How many times has this happened to you, just before you leave for lunch?

Boss: I need this report ASAP!
You: Sure, boss, I'll get right on it.
 (You cancel your lunch plans, work work work, and crank out a report.)
You: Hey, boss, I just finished the report!  Had to skip my lunch plans, but I got it done ASAP, just like you said!
Boss: Uh, thanks, put it in my in-basket.
 (Time passes.)
 (You find out he didn't really need it quite as fast as his tone implied.)

   Okay, you can be excused for doing that once.  But what about next time?  Wouldn't you be much happier, and your boss just as happy as before, if it went more like this:

Boss: I need this report ASAP!
 (You recall your 12-1 lunch plans, estimate the report will take one to two hours, and do the math.)
You: Will, say, 3:00 be okay?
Boss: Uh, yeah, sure.
 (You have lunch with your buddies as planned.)
 (You come back and do the report, finishing at 2:45.)
You: Hey, boss, here's your report!
Boss: Fifteen minutes early, and it looks nice!  Great job!

   Okay, sometimes it won't quite work out that way, but more like:

Boss: I need this report ASAP!
 (You recall your 12-1 lunch plans, estimate the report will take one to two hours, and do the math.)
You: Will, say, 3:00 be okay?
Boss: No, I need it by 1:30!
You: Okay, I'll get right on it!
 (You cancel your lunch plans, and rush out a report, giving it to the boss at 1:29.)

   Is that really any worse than the first scenario?  No, in fact it's better, because now you have a much better idea of exactly when the boss needs the report, and therefore how much time you can spend on it.  Since he stated a time, chances are, he really did need it by then.  (If not, and he does this a lot, find a new boss.  That's a whole 'nother exciting episode of Dare to Excel.)

   So where's the "excelling" in this, you may wonder?  There are two pieces.

   First, you are exercising the skill of time management!  Okay, maybe having lunch with your buddies wasn't terribly important, but it's what you planned to do, and you're finding a way to stick to your plan.  This may involve honoring important commitments  (another important aspect of excellence); maybe your buddies were counting on you to bring the birthday cake for the one of them that's only in town for the day and you all haven't seen for years.

   Second, your lunch plans may have been something a bit more important than just lunch.  Maybe you were attending a seminar, or some other self-improvement.  I see this a lot from certain individuals in my lunchtime Toastmasters club.  It would help them, and the rest of the club, if they would stand up for themselves, ask the boss when the report is due (or whether they can hold the meeting after 1:00 or whatever), and Dare to Excel!

   So now, dear readers, it's your turn.  Tell us about a time when a boss, or even a colleague, loved one, friend, whatever, made you hurry when it wasn't really necessary -- and worse yet, made a habit of it.  What did you do -- both in that instance, and to prevent it from happening again?

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