Floating — NOT Sinking. Get the Job Done

What is always most important to me is being reactive and then proactive. We need both. Reactive to what we can’t control, and proactive with what we can.

Do it now or save it for later? It’s not due today, nor tomorrow, not even the end of this week! It can wait! … or can it?

There is a constant discussion and application of urgency vs importance.

How do you see the difference?

The topic of this writing is how to handle various urgent tasks at the same while not neglecting the important tasks to a point where they also become urgent.

The above is how I would define the difference.

When you have numerous responsibilities that come onto your plate but are unable to fulfill all of the important items that are generally recurring and ongoing, it could get dangerous.

If you are constantly striving to stay above water and find yourself beginning to sink, you need to reach out.

Grab the lifeline — or create one.

If you allow yourself to continue at a point where you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you will fall dead. There’s hardly any coming back from that. If you lose your head and don’t even know your left from your right, it’s hard to develop anything tangible.

When you’re planning your week, you need some gray area. How much you need depends on your role. I usually anticipate 5–10 hours of gray area that could be allocated in whatever area it is needed.

For the last 4 or 5 weeks, that 5–10 hours has inflated to much more like something close to 20–30 hours. Now, I’m generally working 8–9 hours a day 5 days a week, and 1–3 hours on the weekends. The entire month of November I was generally working 10–12 hours a day in the office, another 1–2 at home after work, and 4–8 hours on the weekends. This was what was necessary to continue moving in the direction that I needed to go.

Sometimes I could have gotten by on less time but I wasn’t working as quickly as I could regularly work. My attention to detail was decreasing slightly so I needed to spend additional time verifying details and ensuring that I was fulfilling all requirements.

There were a few tasks that are important (such as filing return authorizations for the received product from one of our vendors). I postponed that responsibility entirely. I communicated with all three involved parties and as they were well aware of where else I was needed, they were understanding and patient — but again, to an extent. Now, 5 weeks later, that task is important AND urgent. Because of that, I took it home for the weekend so it’s ready to go Monday morning.

I had to get the job done. So I did.

But it’s not done yet. I finished most of October’s information but that leaves November outstanding and everything from the next few weeks that will remain outstanding until I’m back to zero.

The difficult part of this whole process is the understanding that I’m the only one who can do this job at this point in time. The other individual who knows how to do this effectively and efficiently is our accountant. He trained me 3 quarters ago and while he could do this, the quantity has increased tenfold (in correspondence with increased sales volume). For better or worse, that means I need to get it done and get it done with excellence.

Create Lifeline Safeguards.

What is always most important to me is being reactive and then proactive.

I strive to be proactive in all areas and control what I can control.

That means in relation to the single above example of processing returns for a vendor we drop ship for, I’ve been continually pushing to rework the process so it is uniform with our other vendors.

Again, that’s not in my control. I can influence and I can push, but that’s all I can do.

What I can do as a result of a situation where the necessary filings have been delayed and ultimately willingly postponed due to re-allocation of focus is to create a use case.

Now, there is an increased urgency for the reworked process as the parties with decision-making capabilities have been exposed to some of the potential repercussions. That is vital.

When we cannot be proactive on our own, we need to expose others to the COST.

Most people, as many know all too well, are opposed to change and much prefer the status quo.

The status quo is good — until the very moment, it isn’t.

The current process was good — until I needed to file 60 within a week… my focus got re-allocated due to THREE separate highly demanding urgent matters… and when I returned my focus, I have to file 120 within a week. That’s tough.

So what can we do? Here’s what I did.

Responsibilities Give LIFE.

I did a deep dive analysis and reflection.

Recurring each week I have about 50 hours of work to accomplish. This is standing. Remember, I generally get this done in 40 hours weekly. I know how to organize the tasks I need to get done when I can control my calendar and control my time.

I don’t strive to manage my time as time moves at the same speed each and every day, I want to control my time and truly determine as best as I can where I need to focus.

When I got the messages on Sunday night that first November, I took a moment. Okay, I need to be in the warehouse tomorrow, what does that mean? That means that at least 3 hours of work I intended to complete can NOT be done tomorrow.

Okay, now what?

What 3 hours can I cut out?

Certain things like arranging a shipment for Amazon Fulfillment and managing data tracking for organic keywords on Amazon are essential. Those can be prepped but need to be completed by Tuesday morning — I must do them either Monday during the day or Monday night. That’s every single Monday with no compromise.

Maybe there were other things I could cut out and delay that would not have negative repercussions.

I thought about the parties involved and made a call.

When I said that responsibilities give life that is what I mean. There are involved parties and by delegating tasks, life is gained for the delegator.

The person(s) who fulfill those responsibilities must do so with a high standard. The benchmark was already set and whomever the task(s) are delegated to are expected to execute with a standard as high or higher than the established benchmark.

When you are juggling multiple tasks and priorities as well as your regular responsibilities at once, it is impossible to fulfill all of them within the same amount of time.

Identify which responsibilities have the least amount of recognizable repercussions and transparently communication to ALL stakeholders that there will be delays.

Then get back to work.

After we transparently communicate which of the things that we are responsible for will not be completed and fulfilled within the initial estimated time, we must get back to work and complete what we’ve deemed more urgent.

Then continue to be reactive to the things we can’t control, proactive to control what we can and improve all the processes, and become better prepared every single day.

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right” — Nelson Mandela

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