The world’s messy – get used to it

One of the great things about Twitter is that it brings articles to my attention that I wouldn’t otherwise have read. This blog post originated in one of those articles. It’s here – in it, the writer notes that managers and creatives tend to work on different chunks of time for getting things done – for managers hour diary slots are usually adequate, but for creatives an hour barely gives you time to get going. So far so good – I’ve written a Joe’s Jottings piece in which I mention that my own to-do list doesn’t deal in units of time much under half a day.

The writer then goes on to comment on how his organisation – a venture capital outfit – runs it’s diary slots on the ‘maker’ basis rather than the ‘manager’ basis. And turns the whole thing in to a selling point for their services. OK – at one level this is a good example of catering your working practices to your client base, but it started me thinking again about the increasing tendency I’ve witnessed in the last year or so amongst start up companies and those catering for them towards over-complicating what are really quite straight forward and, in some cases, old fashioned, good personal and business management skills and techniques.

I’m just getting a little tired of seeing things that are just this side of bleedin’ obvious being touted as if they were the bastard intellectual offspring of an orgy between Wittgenstein, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Drucker.

I wear a number of hats in my day to day life; I’m a husband, cat-wrangler, consultant, software developer, charity Trustee, line manager, householder, social entrepreneur…you get the picture. Each of these activities requires me to operate in different ways – sometimes I’m working to someone else’s priorities, sometimes to my own. Oddly enough these things all get recorded in the same diary, with prioritisation and time-slots allocated to the job in hand. If there’s a day on which I want to do development work, I block it out in my diary – the things that will shift me from that are family or major line management issues. If I have a board meeting, I block out the morning or afternoon. It’s called time-management, prioritisation and flexibility. It’s an essential component of what is needed to get stuff done in a world that is messy.

It’s important for startups to get used to the idea that sooner or later they’re going to have to get used to dealing with the world the way it is, not the way they’d like it to be. Pandering from VC companies doesn’t help this; people in startups learning the basics of time and diary management and prioritisation will.

When does a Jedi play a banjo?

yodaSome years ago I worked for a large UK bank-assurer as a contract software developer. One project that I became involved with was to provide a bug tracking / change management system. As with all software systems, we decided to give it a ‘cool’ name and someone in the team suggested ‘Jedi’.

After stifling an inward sigh and wondered how I, a Star Trek fan, had ended up in a world full of Star Wars geeks, I asked the chap who originated the name why he’d thought it was a good name.  The answer was simple; in this context, Jedi was going to stand for something. Jedi actually stood for Just ‘Effing Do It! After that I had no problem with the name at all.

Just ‘Effing Do It – as one of the world’s great procrastinators, anything that helps me kick the habit has to be worth thinking about, and as an acronym JEDI is great.  In the intervening years I’ve called upon JEDI many times, and I think that it has helped me break at least part of my procrastination habit.  By analysing my activity on projects (one reason why I keep a log book) I found that the actual time spent on various tasks is quite often significantly less than the time I think I might spend upon them.  However, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about doing the job, planning it, worrying about it, determining that I haven’t the time to do it, doing something that’s urgent but not important, doing something that’s neither urgent or important, drinking tea and, in extremis, having a bath.  In other words, the way of the procrastinator can be strong in me!

Procrastination is probably my biggest time-bandit; the putting off of tasks for some indeterminate and usually inadequate (and often non-existant) reason.  I now recognise that some of the tasks I put off are tedious, some just seem overwhelmingly difficult, and others – well, some are just so unpleasant that I want to ignore them altogether.  The latter tasks can just keep nagging away at you, though, and this is where the concept of a banjo playing Jedi comes in useful…

Banjo stands for Bang A Nasty Job Off – in other words, if you have a stinker of a job to do, that you find unpleasant for any reason, the best way to get it out of your life is to get on with it as effectively as possible – in other words, Jedi.

So there you have it – you want to get ahead in this world, then start contemplating banjo playing Jedi knights.

And on that note…where’s that code I have to write today?