How to keep people off your back

I’m the type of guy who likes to stay busy. I also like to get stuff done. This combination seems to turn me into a work magnet and I’m okay with that. I feel the most comfortable, when I have a work queue that is 2-4 weeks long. That gives me ample time to prepare for upcoming work and I don’t get worried that I will run out of work (less worry of being down-sized suddenly).

The only negative that goes along with maintaining such a big backlog is that people tend to get impatient. They don’t want to wait a month. Some people want updates daily. “How is it coming along? Almost done? Can I look at the progress yet?”. Then they get all deflated when I say, “no sorry, I won’t touch that for another week or two”. It makes me a little disappointed too.

I’m sure that people honestly do believe that I’m working on it and not just surfin’ Yahoo or playing WoW instead. However, they really wish they could get a little more insight into what I’m doing. It would really set their minds at ease.  I suppose it’s not too much to ask.  Especially considering how much comfort it gives to others.  Unfortunately, when I’m doing status updates, I’m not making progress on my actual work.  So, it feels counter-productive.  I’d like to minimize that sort of thing.

One technique that seems to help, is keeping a journal. I keep a meticulous journal that describes my day, down to 15 minute increments. It has saved my kiester at least a dozen times. When a project is going good, nobody complains, but if one single thing goes wrong, then everybody is like “So Tim, what were you doing on Tuesday at 2:35 pm?” and they always say it with a “neener neener neener” tone in their voice.  Like they know you were slacking and you are so busted.  Snotty!

Normally I just skim through my mental account of the past five days until I’m able to isolate what I was doing that afternoon. Usually there are huge blank spots where I was immersed in some code or queries or troubleshooting some weird quirk on a server, or learning about optimizing weird DB queries.  I have no idea what was happening.  When I’m deep in concentration, the whole world disappears.  I don’t commit that kind of kawabunga into memory.  Who’s got the terabytes for that?

Anyway, it feels awesome when I can whip out my journal and read off everything that I did for the entire afternoon, including bathroom breaks and phone calls. People don’t expect that level of detail.  Then I ask “would you like a copy of my journal? It will answer any further questions you might have about my schedule”. They always step backwards, wave their hands and say “no thanks”, like I just offered them liver or something. haha.  Here, take the liver!  Ha.

This keeps the doubters off my back, but the “is it done yet” folks are not impressed by this. The one thing that really helps them, is if I can post my upcoming schedule.  They want to know what I’m doing as I’m doing it.  They are very pleased and excited if I can give them a plan or some other doc that covers my projected timeline and activities for their project.  There are extra points if it is somewhere that they can see it AND I if update it daily. Then they REALLY get a warm & fuzzy feeling because it is almost like they have a web cam on me that shows every line of magic that gets pushed into my keyboard.  Okay, maybe not, but they do like to see my plan and my progress.

It really doesn’t take that much extra time to post my daily plan and update it. This is because I set a time-budget for doing schedule updates.  This only afforts a limited level of detail.  Still, it is way better than doing nothing.  It is surprising how much useful information I can crank-out in ten minutes, once I get organized.  Getting started doesn’t even have to take much time if I start out simple.

Try this and see how much joy and satisfaction it brings to your boss or customers.  It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but you will see.

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About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in Methodology, Professionalism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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