Monthly Archives: January 2014

A little slack in your calendar does not make you a slacker!

“I really don’t care as to how much time to you can or not give this project”.

The smooth tone of my boss was dangerous – it popped up all my red alerts. Oh, oh! What was coming next?

“Just let me know how soon can I have this report”

 And this is the truth. The unvarnished truth, if I may be allowed to be dramatic. Nobody, I repeat nobody, really cares about your capability or capacity to do work. These are irrelevant till their main concern is addressed. Throughput – that is all your managers and bosses care about, my friend.

How quickly can you get the work done?

How long need I to wait?

Tick tock, tick tock…

Even Henry Ford found this out the hard way. He thought that he could squeeze more productivity out of his workers by increasing their schedules to 60 hours a week. Short-lived exultation, that was! The burst of productivity lasted only about four weeks as they began producing less than their counterparts who worked 40 hours!

How many times have you whizzed through your maze of drowning work after a relaxed sleep, or a workout at the gym? How many times has a “Eureka” stroke of genius struck you as got up from your claustrophobic space surrounding your desk, walked around the office to the pantry, or relaxed on the chair opposite your friend with a joke before coming back to your laptop screen?

Believe me, this is a powerful realization and acknowledgment. Don’t trick yourself into believing that you will be more productive if you can do more, or work at it longer. This is exactly the reasoning behind traffic signals – filling a road to capacity with cars ain’t gonna take anyone to their destination quicker. Break it up, mon ami, break it up!

And that is why you should recoil at the pretty sight of your calendar neatly boxed in to capacity with “to do” lists – meetings, calls… Empty spaces on your calendar are not sitting ducks to be filled up with some ostensible productive work (pray, who defines the meaning of productive?). They are your havens of sanity refreshers that actually multiply your throughput.

And for all ye resource management analysts, please don’t make the fatal mistake of assessing employee productivity through their calendars. That gives you merely the theoretical production capacity, not productivity – and certainly not throughput! 100% utilization of capacity is the biggest mythical loser – any ops expert will tell us that once a system exceeds 65-70% of maximum utilization, the only thing that increases is the cycle time. Never the productivity!

You need slack in the system, in your calendars and in your minds. That does not make you a slacker. It does not mean that people do not think about their work outside of their scheduled work hours or during their breaks. The truth is exactly the opposite. When I am not intentionally thinking about work, I actually spend time unintentionally thinking about it. I am in my boundary-less creative zone where I do not box myself in with the constraints of my work zone – and so reach the solution sphere quicker sans the annoying pull of ‘that’s-how-it-is-always-done” gravity!

So go ahead, grant your mind a work schedule with generous doses of ‘Do-Not-Fill’ blocks. Use your calendar not to plug empty gaps but to actually prevent you from taking on more commitments than you have the time to handle. And get ready to see your productivity soar!