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‘Crazy Busy’ or Controlled Busy?

Many of us find ourselves with more to do than ever, and perhaps short-staffed in the last few months. Our overload can lead to overwhelm, unless we find a way to get into control. Let’s borrow a practice from the medical profession, and Triage our work. Triage is categorizing work into three categories: Critical and urgent; Important but not as urgent; and finally, Not important, Not urgent, or Not yours. (These aren’t exact parallels to medical but close.)

“Critical and Urgent” is like the patient having a heart attack right in front of you – if you don’t do something right now, serious consequences will result. This could be an angry customer on the phone who’s just received a shipment of defective parts, a safety violation, or a breach on your bank account or server. If you don’t respond, FAST, you’ll be hurting. Few problems are in this category. But we have to hold energy and focus in reserve for these, rather than using up our adrenaline on the other categories.

“Important but not Urgent” is like the patient coming in for a scheduled surgery; they must be checked in, helped to relax, check their vitals, and one last review of the surgery. This category is by far the largest share of our work in any field: making prospect calls, writing quotes and purchase orders, sending/paying invoices, completing inspection reports, recording training/competence milestones and equipment maintenance, routine correspondence with clients, contractors, and others; budgeting, planning for a new machine or a new employee position, inventory of raw materials for traceability, and a hundred others. Some are boring, some are hard work – all are the basics for sound business.

For this major category, we need to agree with ourselves to reserve enough uninterrupted time to give it the focus it deserves. This requires creating time blocks where we ignore, for an hour or two, the usual distractions like email, the phone, and people “just stopping by,” to give adequate attention to these important activities.

Finally, “Not Important, Not Urgent, or Not Yours” can eat up time like a chipper swallows branches. Handling this category is like sorting the morning mail, and works the same way. The discipline we need here is Do It, Ditch It, or Delegate It. Admitting that some things just can’t/shouldn’t be done is a sanity saver. So decide quickly and get back to the really important stuff so we can leave work ON TIME and not Crazy!


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