Work Expands to Fill The Time

Last week I had very similar conversations with general managers at two very different businesses.

They both had teams that seemed to be less focused, productive and efficient the more time they had.

One is a seasonal business where everyone works overtime for 4 months and then have very little to do during the off-season. Yet despite the “extra” time, the wish list of improvement projects never seems to be completed.

The other business sells short-term consulting solutions to clients, so they are “all hands on deck” for 1-2 months and then may only have smaller tasks to fill in between the big installations. Yet during a slower schedule, clients wait a bit too long for response to their smaller requests.

You may see this in your own business, or in your own week. I know that I sometimes don’t have a large list of “done” items when I have a whole day to work on them, but can check off 1-2 proactive items in a few hours between client meetings.

The cause: What you are witnessing is an actual documented sociological principle I learned in college:

“Work expands to fill the time.”

The solution: plan, develop work habits, and track for accountability

  • make a list of what needs to be accomplished – whiteboard on the wall or online tool such as asana.com
  • plan the week with your big 3 (projects, not just ongoing work)
  • begin each day tackling the next priority item
  • end each day re-prioritizing what to focus on the next day
  • review regularly, track progress and expect results
  • remember that deadlines are motivational– pre-schedule a time to review a specific outcome

These steps will improve your own focus on activities that achieve results.

They also work well to focus your team members, build their work habits and hold them accountable.
The key is planning with progress reports in a weekly coaching conversation.

Perhaps take this Friday afternoon to plan out a few items on your “wish list” and then assign one 90 minute task to each day next week to make progress on the first one.

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit™. Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team! You can learn more about the "9 Steps to Build a Fabulous Team" at her upcoming webinar – Click to register here.

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