I’m trying to think of whether I’ve ever read any time management (or process management) rules that actually worked. Hmmm. I don’t think so.
One of my favorites is the OHIO rule for papers, invoices, documents of all sorts: Only Handle It Once. Right… like that’s gonna happen.
In a job like mine, paper keeps coming into my office, ending up on my desk – or my chair when I’m away from my desk – from a variety of sources. I have a continual triage process going on, every hour, every day. I can’t even realistically prioritize a lot of what I have to do with these documents, at least not in any lasting and meaningful way. The idea of putting something in a particular prioritized category, to “deal with when it’s the appropriate time,” is almost a meaningless concept. Tomorrow, next week, next month, there will be whole new sets of priorities to deal with.
Still some things do have deadlines. They have to get done. So those things get pushed up to the surface, and they get done. Something else consequently doesn’t get done. That’s when the squeaky wheel concept comes into play. Of the things that didn’t get done, which ones are squeaking the most right now, or which are most likely to start squeaking soonest? Those are the ones that it’s worth staying late to try to get knocked out.
But in terms of repetition of handling documents, my rule seems to be OHITTT: only handle it thirty-three times. Agreed, that doesn’t sound too good, and it may not really be as bad as all that. But by telling myself that there is a limited number of times I can stand to handle each piece of paper, and there is a limited height that I can stand the piles of paper reaching on my desk, it does sort of put a corral around it. It’s a kind of containment barrier.
Maybe I could do better. But running a “need it now” office of 30+ commercial real estate brokers, having to handle AP/AR/HR, supplies, licensing, web inquiries, subscriptions, legal issues, and making sure the coffee is made and the plants aren’t dead; well, I do the best I can.
It certainly is irksome though to be made to feel that I’m doing it all wrong because I’m handling each piece of paper more than once. Most of the time-management rules I’ve ever read are a bunch of happy claptrap, and I’m happy that (as I believe) you all see it too.