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TIMBO: Productive Pragmatism

August 2, 2010

TIMBO, This Individual Must Be Obeyed

Everyone has a TIMBO in their organization…sometimes more than one. TIMBO is the person whose requests must be answered, instructions must be followed, or meetings must be attended regardless of what you had planned. But they don’t have to destroy your productivity or calm.

What does TIMBO have to do with being productive with less stress? Everything. Effective implementation of GTD (or any system) will not reduce your stress and result in you being less busy if all of your plans – and your calmness – are shattered by a call from TIMBO.

As I’ve discussed in prior articles, you must plan islands of “firefighting” time in your schedule to deal with inevitable interruptions. It is crucial, however, to realize TIMBO will not consider himself or herself to be an interruption.

Leave time to deal with unexpected needs of your boss, their boss, or other people whose requests cannot be deferred.

Learn to ask “what do you want me me not to do?” without panicking. TIMBO must be helped to understand, if she or he doesn’t already, that you will either have to delegate or defer some activities to accommodate a new request unless it is a very small matter…which you should automatically delegate in nearly every case. Small matters are effective tools for teaching others the nuts and bolts of what you do. Time is a nonrenewable resource, and you must actively work with TIMBO so he or she understands you are willing to meet their needs if they fall within your responsibility, but you must work together to achieve effective priority-setting.

And, for sanity’s sake, realize the best laid plans must sometimes give way to more pressing matters.

In an ideal environment, you will have time to meet with your key stakeholders and establish common expectations. Over time, you may even develop key performance measures that help both of you know what is expected and if it is being delivered. These can even evolve into service-level agreements in organizations with the need for them.

But, effective communication need not be so regimented that human interaction stultifies. In fact, human flexibility and adaptability are what enable us to be so much more effective in dynamic environments. They key is for us to remain flexible and adaptable, and the best way to achieve that is open, honest, safe communication.

So, the next time TIMBO interrupts your carefully planned day, take a deep breath. Remember it likely wasn’t done to ruin your day, he or she believes you can deliver what is needed, and you’re likely paid to respond to their immediate needs in addition to your own plans.

Now, let that breath out and move forward.

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