time

Partnering with me on a project can be fun. I am lively, eager to incorporate others’ ideas, give others credit and I don’t have any ego when it comes to who gets credit, who steps on whose “turf” and I am not defensive about what I don’t know. My wife would tell you I always admit when I am wrong, not just one on one but publicly as well. But there is one thing about me that drives everyone crazy, and that is when things are not done quickly, or quickly by my definition, I will rush in and do it myself. People who partner with me on projects will get annoyed by this and I can see that when I jump the gun I am being a bit of a jerk. I admit this and try to work at it. But it is slow going.

A few years ago an old friend gave me a book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy. The author uses scientific research to prove decisions are better when one delays making them. Of course he is right. Yet our culture demands rapid response and deplores procrastination. Unless of course you are the procrastinator. That’s right, we as a culture loath delay of any kind…except when others want something from us. This disconnect is one of the things that truly drives me to distraction about others (the list of what others find irritating in me would be a longer list…) There is no consistency here, we want what we want when we want it but expect others to wait for what they want from us when we are “busy”.

I would like to think I am consistent here, I want things done right away but I also try my utmost to do things for others when they want them, right away. I believe one of my contract jobs has been sustained these past 8 years solely on the basis that I am one of the few non-profit referral agents who gets back to people in hours, sometimes minutes. Most staff who do what I do are better at their jobs than me, they know more, are more competent and have more experience than me. Yet this one small skill, returning calls/emails, sets me apart. I think this says more about our culture than it says about me.

Believe it or not I have been working at delaying decisions and the author of this book is correct, decisions delayed are better. When I am apt to withdraw from something or leap into something waiting a day has made all the difference. But when presented with a task that a colleague or partner needs to do that has yet to be completed the temptation to do it myself is overwhelming. There is an upside to this, I have saved colleagues and partners from embarrassment (I don’t make a point of telling others I jumped in) on many, many occasions. But if I am being honest with myself I have also annoyed colleagues and partners many, many, many times when they did get around to the task and found it done.

I have a lot of energy and I set the bar high, not on the quality of work but on the amount of work that can be accomplished in a set period of time. Life is short and my view is that given the challenges we face getting as much done as possible for others makes the most sense. Still that is not a universal view.

Working out how we do what we do, how our workstyle affects others (those we serve with and those we serve) and being consistent in what we expect from others and what others expect from us is goal all of us can set for 2017. Or we can start now.