Doing Too Much? Don’t Let a Deadline Bypass Common Sense

ChecklistLots of people are doing too much, feeling too burdened, and finding they aren’t as effective as they would like to be. As a coach, I work with leaders around this reality, and I coach them to take the time to assess situations and plan reasonably. Setting unrealistic deadlines hurts! Not only does it keep the negative spiral of too much/too burdened going; but missing a deadline can damage a leader’s credibility.

Yes, you already knew all of this. But I learned something new last week and I want to pass along the knowledge in the hope it will benefit you, too.

Everyone has little tricks they use to finish a project. My kids will tell you I like to make a list when I have many steps to complete, and I place a check next to each task when it’s accomplished. I’ve endeavored to get them to consider this process (especially when completing homework). Our phrase for it is “get a satisfying check.”

When reviewing my work list last week, I saw I had a deadline today. I had already completed tasks that had deadlines last week, so I had discretion in where to apply my time and effort. I thought of the “satisfying check” and decided it would be especially satisfying to get this particular project done sooner rather than later. It required having multiple programs open as well as logging into a secure site. I opened all the spreadsheets and programs and was about to begin when, as sometimes happens, I was called to join other meetings. Since I have a home office, I decided to leave all the resources open overnight and start my project first thing the next morning.

You can guess the rest. The spreadsheets were tabbed and ready. My check list was ready. Even my coffee cup was filled! The secure site took my credentials, but wouldn’t open the resource I needed. I tried, and tried, and tried again. I called a colleague to see if he was having troubles with the site. He said he had had a problem but eventually was able to get on.

He then suggested, “Why not reboot your computer?”

WOW! So obvious, yet not on my radar. And that’s my point: sometimes the desire to beat a deadline can beat out common sense.

I knew enough not to work all night on the project, but my tools—in this case, the laptop—needed to be refreshed, too. Turning things off allows for a fresh start. It’s wry to note that I even was ahead of schedule, yet still overlooked the obvious solution. I had to close the spreadsheets and other documents only to open them again—big deal! The computer needed a fresh start to be of service to me in completing my task. And yes, after I rebooted, I got right into the resource and finished the task five days ahead of schedule.

You need to keep yourself in good order to produce good results. Assessing whether you need a break for a fresh start is part of planning for good results. But remember to assess the functionality of your professional work tools as well. Don’t sacrifice common sense in pursuit of a satisfying check!

About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D., is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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