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Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Imagine a scenario where you are full of enthusiasm to start working on a task or a certain part of a project. You are really ready to kick some butt… until you realize that your hands are tied: Perhaps you can’t start working on the task because someone else’s input is needed first, or maybe a network drive which stores your project files is inaccessible because of a hardware failure.

Since you are unable to continue with your work for now, the next logical question is: How are you going to prepare for these kinds of scenarios the next time, so that you won’t end up wasting your time again?

Are you too busy to prepare?

There is one obvious reason why you are experiencing the frustration over what just happened: You weren’t prepared enough for a scenario like this. Exactly why you were unprepared was a result of two reasons:

First, you didn’t allocate enough time for the preparation. Since you were busy with your other stuff, you neglected the preparation—even if you knew it was necessary.

Perhaps you even thought that preparing was unnecessary in the first place. You didn’t understand the importance of it and you didn’t bother sitting down and thinking of your plan B for your task or for your project.

So there you are, and you don’t know what to do next since you don’t have any secondary plan in place.

Trusting too much that things go well

You have now realized that the unprepared route you have taken is not a professional way to do things, and simply assuming that everything will go OK is not a solid plan.

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It goes without saying that you need to learn to appreciate the planning part as well. It doesn’t matter how good your task list looks; if the tasks are not executable because of unexpected dependencies, you can trash your task list this very moment.

When you learn to see the big picture and allocate enough time for planning, only then are you able to avoid the roadblocks and stop wasting your time.

Learn to stop (in order to keep on going)

From now on you should do certain things to secure the smooth execution of your tasks and projects.

First, take enough time to plan your next move. In fact, FORCE yourself to take the time for planning. It will pay off handsomely, especially when things are not going as planned.

Understand that planning time is actually working on the task already: It’s preparing for the worst-case scenario and making sure that everything goes well if something unexpected happens.

Secondly, see every part of the task: Who is involved, which systems are being used, and which parts are integral to your work?Seeing this in advance is crucial, because it gives you a better level of preparedness later on.

Thirdly, imagine every possible scenario before taking action. What happens if a system goes down? What about a situation where you need another person’s input before you can continue with your own work?

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Once you have considered these scenarios in advance, you can continue with your work without minimum downtime. And believe me—it’s more than possible that you are going to experience the unexpected, something that wasn’t written on your task list.

Keep the ball rolling by preventing these 4 common SPOF scenarios

SPOF stands for Single Point of Failure, and it’s a fancy way of saying that if one part of the system collapses, it takes the whole system down.

Apply this knowledge to your project or a task the same way: If your work is dependent of something or someone and the person or system lets you down, then your work gets delayed and time gets wasted.

Here are the four most common scenarios that you can prevent with some planning. Be proactive on these and your work will continue as smoothly as possible.

1. Task cannot be continued without someone else’s input first

Oftentimes your work can only continue when someone else has done his/her part first. To make sure that this is the case, spot these kinds of tasks in the early phases of your project and prioritize them if possible.

The sooner you start with the delegation, set deadlines and communicate clearly why the task is important to take care of, the bigger chance there is to have the necessary input completed before you are starting your part.

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2. You have lost your work

Do you take backups regularly? Is it easy to restore things back to normal if your hard disk crashes? If you answered no to these questions, then make sure you fix the situation as quickly as possible.

First, try saving your content in the cloud. For instance, I’m saving all the important documents not only to my hard drive, but also to DropBox by using its client software. If my hard drive happens to crash, the backup copy is available on the cloud.

Then, buy an additional backup system for your computer. In many cases, this can be bought as a service that is offered by your Internet Service Provider. You can also subscribe to an onlinebackup system.

3. You realize you can’t do the task yourself

Have you ever realized that completing a certain task will actually require expertise that you don’t own? And since you don’t have the expertise, the task can’t be done right now? Well, I have run into this issue many times before, and with a little preparation this can be avoided.

In this situation everything comes down to the planning, where you actually go through the different scenarios (as mentioned before). During this phase, you also understand whether you can do the work yourself or if you have to hire an outsider to do the work for you.

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Be absolutely honest with yourself about this: If you have any doubts that you can’t do the task yourself, it’s better to outsource it. Nothing is worse than doing a mediocre job yourself, when the results could be outstanding by an outsider.

Be sure to gather the required expertise well before you start working on your task/project. That way you are not wasting your time on doing the task yourself.

4. Your idea is lost

You have this great idea that popped into your head while you were at work, but now you can’t remember what it is. Had you stored it immediately, you’d still have an idea and it could potentially add a bigger figure to your bottom line or save hours of your work.

You owe it to yourself to write down the idea immediately as it pops into your head. You could use traditional pen and paper, use your mobile phone to store it temporarily (even if it hasn’t got Internet access) or even use your smartphone for storing the idea directly on Google Docs or EverNote.

Don’t convince yourself that “I’ll remember the idea when I get back home”. Most likely you’ll forget it and feel annoyed and frustrated.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things that can halt your productivity and cause you to waste your time. Don’t let this happen and create a fail-proof system which lets you continue with your work – even if one part of the system collapses.

Make sure you spend enough time by going through the different scenarios in advance. You’ll thank yourself that you did this when something unexpected happens.

Over to you: How do you make sure you can continue with your tasks – even when part of the system collapses?

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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