One Too Many Plates Spinning

Andy Warren, 2009-09-21

I’ve written here and there about my attempts at time management and the idea that as you spin more and more plate, it’s easy to guess wrong about whether you can really spin one more or note. Lately I’ve had the almost perfect storm of distractions hit at once; family, work, SQLSaturday Orlando, small but valued client wanting some help, user group meeting, and it really hurt. I came dangerously close to dropping a few things and just barely made everything work. As a measure of that stress I’m even now trying to pound my inbox back into reasonable shape from it’s current level of 200 messages…after removing all the junk.

There’s a tendency here to think that I was doing too much, but in practice most of us can’t afford to work at 50% capacity just in case multiple storms happen at once. More realistic – and sustainable – is about 80%, reserving the ability to surge if needed. I’m generally confident to surge even more when needed, but I don’t want to try to sustain that beyond a week or two, which is good because most sudden problems typically resolve that fast or less.

It’s a real world problem that happens. I had one project that needed to be finished as a chunk and once done, all the remaining projects were time boxed. I had to work on the user group, had to put in time on my local event, had to do other things. In a lot of cases you can tell the client you need a few extra days, especially if you have a track record of being reliable, but here I could only move one thing and not very far. What remains is to work harder and longer for the crunch and sometimes cut corners that you might not. Here’s an example: for the user group I typically spend time time trying to get a sponsor that will cover the price of the food and come to the meeting, both add value. This time I just paid for the pizza to get that chunk of time back.

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