Friday, January 25, 2013

Closeout Delay: Donate Blood

Oooookay, so this didn't start as well as I had hoped.

Anything I write here is going to sound an awful lot like an excuse. Did I have a busy week? Yes.


Lots of weeks are busy weeks. And honestly, let's not kids ourselves here: the term "busy" is an extremely flexible one. We all feel busy, don't we? I know I did.

But the truth is, I was only about half busy (again, even with this very flexible definition of "busy" that we're using here--I wasn't out non-stop from 8:00 to midnight or anything). And even of that half of the week that was very busy, only about half of it came up too quickly for me to react to. And, if we're still being honest, only once did I have anything close to a plan to get to a blood donation site (and, of course, it was interrupted by Actual Events).

But if there's one thing I do try to bring to the work I do (as in professionally), it's to conduct actual, get-useful-information-out-of-a-painful-finale Lessons Learned analyses.

So, you say, what did I learn?

I need to blog every day. Despite the fact that I got started on this by following the excellent example of my wife (who does blog every day, rain or shine), I somehow convinced myself that it wasn't a hard necessity--more like a nice goal.

This is not the case.

There are a lot of reasons why this is not the case, but here's the big one: if I'm forced to say something every day, it's going to be a lot more obvious to me when my task for the week starts to slip. At the very least, even if I'm talking about something other than the task, it's an important daily reminder of what I'm on schedule for. Even a task like this, which boils down to driving to one of the many blood donation events nearby (Sharon found this excellent locator in our area) one single time, I need to keep reminding myself of what we're doing. Which leads me to the second lesson learned:

Start off with a plan and post it immediately. I don't need to carve it in stone or sign it in blood or mix it with yet another metaphor, but I need to start planning the week out right away. Even something relatively quick like donating blood takes time and effort, and looking out to what's ahead of me is going to be helpful.

Had I done that last week, I would have realized that from the start of the week, I was looking at a pretty narrow band of time to get this done. We had a series of familiar get-togethers over the (long) weekend, and I'd need to go in to the office on Tuesday (to my credit, I did look for a blood drive near the office but wasn't able to find one). Here's the kick: I knew about all this in the beginning, and it should have started my week off on a yellow light by acknowledging "Hey, of the 7 days I have to get this done, 4 are right out. I really need to nail down one of these other days." And speaking of that...

Get it done as soon as you can. Ok, yes, this is just good general advice that we all know and should follow, but I've had a good opportunity to pound the lesson into my head this week. Even if I didn't think ahead and keep reminding myself of what needed to be done, if I was eager to complete it as soon as possible, I would have had a good shot at completing it.

The reason why we think we can wait to complete (or even start) tasks like this is that our brains like to trick us into thinking that we have a better grasp on reality than we really do. The reason why we need to do these things right away is because (as I mentioned earlier) Events Transpire. You're tired in the morning and think you can get something done in the afternoon. Except you forgot that you have something else going on later in the day, and you won't be able to get away. Or, as happened with me (and often does, and I never learn), something new came up later in the day and has yanked away your opportunity to get it done.

All together, some good lessons observed, and hopefully learned (the public self-flagellation will hopefully make it stick). If I had been at the top of my game, I would have planned things out in the beginning of the week, recognized my narrow window to get it done, continued reminding myself of the importance of getting it complete, and would have been primed at the starting line for the first opportunity to get it done.

Instead... well, yeah, none of those things happened. What did happen?

Other Things.

And you know what? There are always going to be Other Things Happening, so I'd better start shaping up.

P.S. I don't have any rules for what happens if I don't complete a task in time. Any ideas for what to do? Do I add it to the list of things to do next week under the heading "better late than never," or do I take the hit and keep the scar as a reminder?

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