Tech & Work

Keeping on top of the work flow

Letting the routine stuff slide when work is piling up is a false timesaver, says Jeff Dray. If left too long, things like paperwork and follow-up calls can become an impediment to getting other work done.

Sometimes, when the jobs are coming in thick and fast and the pressure is on it can be tempting to let the routine stuff slide, but it can be a false time-saver. When it comes to the crunch, those routine tasks, such as the paperwork and form filling, become an impediment to getting work done.


It can be tempting to let the routine stuff slide when under pressure, but ask any employer and they will tell you that a job is designed to be completed in the contracted hours and that if you have trouble in getting all the work done, it is probably your lack of organization and not the workload that is at fault.

Certainly you have to prioritize your work, but it can mean that the nonurgent stuff never gets done. I find that I have to add another criterion to the priority calculation, and that is time. I find that I have to move up the priority level purely on the basis of time. Even if the customer says that it isn't urgent, they get moved up the list by virtue of time passed.

With the credit crunch in full swing, we have not had replacements for the people who have resigned or retired in the last year. I am finding that my work area is growing larger all the time, so it is inevitable that I am traveling further and arriving later to my jobs. This means that I have to be sure that I have prioritized all my work so that nobody gets left behind, although there are times when I simply run out of time.

Sometimes I have to make hard choices, such as allowing a job to slide so that I can get others done in time, but what I have found is that I can usually smooth it over by calling the customer and negotiating a new ETA. I usually know how long a job is likely to take, but there are occasions when a ten-minute job becomes a four-hour marathon, and the planned schedule goes completely out the window. That is when I get back on the phone again and do my contrite act; "You are my top priority, and I will be with you first call in the morning."

Some mornings I have more than one "first job" -– it all depends on how long they are going to take and whether one call is en route to the next and so on.

It is another example of having to manage your customer's expectation. I have found that most of my customers, once they have gotten to know me, will appreciate being kept in the loop. If I am running late I tend to take a break and call all the other people who are expecting to see me, to give them revised ETAs. Sometimes, when you are up against a wall, it pays to take a step back, take stock of the situation, review the priorities, and make some phone calls.

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