Well, after a brief hiatus while I rebuilt my computer and tried to make it run more effectively I am finally able to bring you a blog post. Now I know that most of you havn’t missed our little chats but some of you it seems have done. So, while the rest of you run to the hills or simply ignore the fact that I’ve been typing away for the last hour I’ll talk to those who may be interested.
The person who invented the computer was a genius. No doubt about it. However, the person who decided that the computer should run our lives and our businesses was not. When I was a youth I was convinced that technology, all technology, was the way to go. Having a computer would stop time wasting, would speed up or automate the most inane tasks, would save the economy billions and at the same time stop the destruction of the rain forest because we would no longer need letters. Of all of these the first was the one that grabbed me. Time is the only real thing we have in this life and to waste it has always been something I dislike. When I was a kid I don’t ever remember being bored. Not when I was alone anyway. With other people I got bored very quickly because I had other things to do and they were not that interested in helping me. So, whenever I had ‘free’ time I filled it. The idea that the computer could save me even more time so I could do more of what I wanted was amazing. As soon as we could afford it I got hold of an old 286 with a 20mb hard disk and set about learning how to use it. I’d got a line feed dot matrix printer at the same time and it was this machine and that printer that got me my first job. It took me weeks to get the hang of DOS and then Windows 3.0 (remember that?!?) but I got there and soon enough I was away. Did I learn something useful that I would use in years to come? Absolutely! In fact I learned a couple of things:
- I gained a new skill that many of my peers didn’t have at that time. I was able to then also teach them.
- I gained some new friends who were also into this new technology (yes, I was and remain a geek and those I’ve stayed in touch with are also from that stable).
More importantly I gained a new insight: If you persevere you can aquire the knowledge to gain any new skill. If you are ahead of the game you can then teach it and learn even more along the way.
I gained these valuable insights but did I gain any more time? Well, the short answer is NO.
My old IT teacher at college once told me something I have never forgotten:
‘A document is like a butterfly. While it’s in the machine it is alive and it moves and grows and you can play with it and it grows some more. Once you print it’s dead. You have pressed it and preserved it and there is no more you can do.’
Wise words and a great metaphor. However, it also led me to endless corrections and re-writes and all kinds of other things that took up way too much time. A task that took me an hour by hand in theory would take half as long on a PC. The reality is that it took me twice as long. Where I would have picked up the telephone I now sent an email and had to wait (and wait) for a response which never made sense.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, one of the things I always get asked is about getting things done. What’s the best way to use the time we have in the day. Within the above story are a number of lessons you can use but the key to this is really about communication. If you didn’t need other people to help you along the way you wouldn’t have to ask or wait for the answer.
Today we are accustomed to working with companies who insist on everything being verbal so they don’t have to serve you the way they should. In contrast you need to hold them to account and so writing is the preferred way to communicate. Emails get ignored and letters rarely get a response other than the standard automated response that makes no sense and wastes more of your time.
Here then is my most important tip for anyone – either at work or at home – that needs to involve others in a project and finds that this causes time to slip away.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY FIRST
Why are you communicating?
What is the action that you want the other person to take (clarity is key here)
When do you need a response
Who are the essential people who need to know
How should you communicate? – If something is urgent and you need an answer now – Use the telephone.You can always confirm the conversation in writing when you have the answer you need.
So there you have it. Another lesson from a mis-spent youth. As ever I’d love to know how using this works for you. Have fun until next week,