One of my young soldiers needs a certificate to be input into records so that he is promotable. If you’ve ever worked in the Army, you know how lousy the bureaucracy can be. Things fall through the cracks everyday. To counter this, more redundancy is created overlapping what is already a swamp of redundancy.
I gave him the same instructions that I’ve given to many young soldiers.
- Be clear with what you want.
- Ask the other person when can you expect change. This should be a concrete date or time.
- Put that deadline into a system, such as a task manager.
- When the date approaches, reconnect with the other party about he needed action. If it isn’t done, renegotiate.
- Repeat as necessary.
This is very simple, and yet I am surprised at how often I come across someone who doesn’t do this. A common pitfall is to be vague. The young soldier that I was talking to had sent his paperwork in, and was told by the admin that he’d work on it. However, there was no time set. Would it be done in a week? A day? A month?
A problem with this is that you now have to keep wondering “is this task done?” You don’t want to be rude and harass the admin, so you let it slide a couple weeks. Or you don’t grasp how busy the other person is, and you soon irritate them with your constant checkups. And, you’ve got it sticking in your mind to remember to check up on the task. If it is on your mind, it is taking up bandwidth. This is then taking away room for you to relax, to think creatively, to 5ink about other stuff. And thinking is draining. And if another task comes up that you need to keep track of, you’ll likely drop the ball on one of them.
I told him that people get busy. This admin may be the best person in the world, but his system of organization sucks, or he is swamped by other priorities, or who knows what. Or perhaps he devalues the importance of this certificate and puts other tasks ahead of it in his day. Or who knows what. The end result is that if it is important to you, then you need to track it.
We are all juggling thoughts in our heads, and can only juggle so much. It’s a constant whirl of activity. So take out the important ones and file them into a trusted system, as David Allen says.
I tuned my monitor to him and showed him my system. I have both OmniFocus and Todoist on the web apps. I keep holding out to use OmniFocus web app, but it is so bad to use, I keep going back to Todoist. Meanwhile, Todoist cannot function without due dates, and strict GTD doesn’t allow for false due dates. It irks me to no end. Anyway, I showed him my a Todoist and clicked the “waiting” tab. There was listed the reports, forms, inspections, that I was waiting for the Squad Leaders to get back to me. I told him this was how I was able to keep people on track. I’ll assign a task, and then make a waiting-for task with a due date in our agreed upon task.
We productivity nerds often talk in higher level areas of efficiency. But a lot of times it is that one application of something in a concrete manner, how it relates to someone’s particular life, that makes a bigger impact.