Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The importance of quiet time

I have entered another busy period.

Much of the work that I am doing just at present is project based. Those who have worked in a project environment will know that work fluctuates. There are slow periods when you can only do so much, waiting on others for decision or input. Then, as is happening just at present, things become frenetic as the project rolls-out against ever shortening deadlines.

One side-effect of this is that I am going to have to cut posting on this blog back to perhaps three posts a week for the next few weeks, just to cut myself some slack.

I don't know about you, but one of the problems I find in our current life style is simply the absence of quiet time. Everything is not just busy, but noisy as well. We seem to rush through life.

Some people don't mind this. Its fits their personalities, or perhaps they are just used to it. I don't mind being busy. I have been for much of my life, and indeed get bored when I don't have enough to do. Yet in all the pressure, I have always found and valued quiet spots.

I need this at a personal level. However, it is also important in a professional sense.

There are some jobs in which the doing is all. See problem, fix problem. However, some work requires time and quiet to think things through, to sort the issues out.

My own nature means that I like to take the time to work things out properly. This can be frustrating for colleagues who just want to get on with it. Conversely, though, once I am ready to move I want to move fast. This where I can get frustrated with things like slow decision processes.

One of my greatest frustrations, although it has sometimes been quite a profitable frustration, lies in fixing up problems that should not have been problems in the first place.

A while ago I was asked at short notice to take part in an initial project planning session. By lunchtime, it was clear that the timelines imposed on the project were unrealistic. On behalf of the group I advised this, to be told that certain key timelines were firm, that we just had to make do, to cut our cloth.

In the afternoon, we worked out an approach that would allow certain things to be done that would meet the formal commitments that had been made, but yet still made sense in a project sense. However, the approach had a number of critical dependencies, including the availability of certain resources. These could not be made available, and the deadlines could not be met.

The problems could have been avoided if we had taken more time at the pre-planning stage just to think about the issues involved. This should have happened well in advance of that first formal project planning session. But nobody had the time!

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