Do you do what I do? I suspect a lot of us do. With me it’s not just what’s urgent or important, but also what’s on the screen, which window is in the forefront, and what just happened.
It’s like urgent vs. important vs. recent. With a distortion filter for fun, or interesting.
The title of this post comes from basic accounting, handling inventory for accounting purposes as either last in first out (LIFO) or first-in first-out (FIFO). Lately I’ve been doing extreme LIFO. And I’m not sure that’s good.
Urgent vs. Important. It’s a really old paradigm, right? I bet you’ve been aware of it forever. I think most people identity author Steven Covey with bet you’ve heard of the problem of confusing urgency with importance. The video here puts it clearly in just a couple of minutes, so I decided to include it with this post.
But that’s not what really happens with me. I’m grateful for what seems like a problem. I’m involved with a lot of interesting things … my flagship company that I founded, business planning, social media, blogging, and lately I’ve had a kick with video editing. My days are easy to fill.
But damn. Every so often I pull my head up out of the immediate and look at what I’m doing and it’s disorganized, not prioritized, kind of fun but not as productive as it could be. I have no discipline about what’s the next thing I do. It might not be either urgent or important; it might just be there. I do whatever is fun or interesting, or just came in.
Damn! I just did it again. Even after 30+ years running my own business I still underestimate time for tasks I like, and overestimate time for tasks I don’t like.
I like writing, and I like programming, which is definitely cool because that’s how I built a business. But when I look ahead, trying to schedule my time right, I end up consistently underestimating the time it’s going to take to post on a blog, develop an ebook, or write a column; and the time it’s going to take to redo one of my WordPress sites or work on one of my newer product development projects.
I’m sure I do this and I’m wondering whether you think everybody does. When I’m asked to estimate how much time some task is going to take:
If it’s something I enjoy doing, like writing, or programming, or driving on an open road, my estimate is always too low.
If it’s something I don’t enjoy, like chores, or long meetings, or driving through city traffic, then my estimate is always too high.
I’m serious. Back in the 1990s when I was actually programming real software product – I did a third of the code in the first Business Plan Pro – my estimates of the time things would take were terrible. Even today, when I’m mostly writing, the time I actually take doing this blog post, to name one example, is about three times more than what I would have thought when I started it.
And that’s a business problem, not just a random thought. Coordinating and collaborating requires managing time estimates. How do you coordinate marketing implementation and launch, for example, if time estimates are wrong?
It was hell on me when I was getting any of my books finished. It was so much more fun to imagine them, outline and highlights and all, think about them, than to actually write all those words.
I tried to double or triple my own estimates for my own work, but that didn’t work very well either, because every so often I’d get really psyched on a job, get into a zone, and finish it as quickly as I originally thought I would.
So I have no solution to this problem. Maybe it’s a good thing to have jobs you like as much as I’ve liked some of mine. But it’s hard to deal with. Do you have a solution?