Busyness won’t build your business, it closes off your creativity and your luck. Anticipate, or at least acknowledge, missed deadlines and commitments: triage or re-negotiate.
I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.
Tim Kreider “The Busy Trap“
It’s a terrible feeling when you are behind in your work. What might have been good if delivered early and adequate if on time is now insufficient. So you have to keep raising the bar the later you get. Understanding what is critical to accomplish means making hard choices, and just as when you won’t admit a loss on a stock because you haven’t sold it, you can console yourself that you are still working on that deliverable and it’s just a little late.
“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else–we are the busiest people in the world.”
Hurry creates tunnel vision. It closes off your ability to notice, create, and act upon chance opportunities. It makes you less lucky. It’s always a good idea to maintain focus and finish the critical tasks that are on your list for today or that you have committed to a customer or a partner. But if your list is longer than about six hours of work and you are like most entrepreneurs I know, many won’t get done and you should at least prioritize.
Mark to Market
I have a very long to do list that contains goals for the day, week, month, quarter, year, and next year. Sometimes I have to mark tasks [d] for dropped instead of [x] for done. The sooner I do that so that I can finish the critical ones the less I have hanging over me. I don’t mean to make this sound easy or even straightforward but consider the following to catch up and be creative again:
- Drop tasks that may have been a good idea at one time. Put them on a “good idea” list you can revisit in six months time.
- Explicitly de-commit or re-negotiate a new deadline if you know you are going to miss one or you have already missed it.
- If it’s possible: do a partial job early, send a draft, send an outline, timebox for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour and get a small chunk done and ask for feedback. The worst outcome is to be late and have an incorrect idea of what’s expected or needed.