Just sit down — and follow up
The essential is often very visible to the eye. But quite tedious
“ I always return calls” the client said, at the beginning of our conversation.
And I said “of course”, but in my head the immediate reaction was “I wish I could say the same”.
I am doing much better today, but for years I struggled to properly follow up on missed calls. To be honest, even following up promptly and professionally to meetings has always been a weakness of mine.
The only good explanation is that I love conversations, the human connection, the feeling of progress and novelty, and I am not exactly in love with routine work. When I need to write a proposal to a client, I really need to treat myself with some quality tea and a few cookies to bribe myself into sitting down and doing. the. damn. work.
It’s usually my schedule’s fault.
I reached a few insights lately that are helping me cope with my inadequate following up skills.
The first one, which is probably the only legitimate one, is that busy schedules, full of scattered meetings, are really bad for work.
You know those weeks that on your calendar look like a lot of boxes, with short breaks between them (which are supposed to be your time to travel, eat, go to the bathroom, call your loved ones, etc), with no clear daily routine? Those weeks are the worst.
It’s much easier to look at my to do list in the morning and decide what I am taking off today, only when I have full confidence that there is enough time for my tasks to be completed effectively. When I have to search for time to work between meetings, or if I have only 30/45 minutes long slots between different meetings, my head will try to make an effort to concentrate on the task, but it won’t be as productive. I started putting aside at least one day a week where I schedule no more than three hours of meetings or consulting sessions. The rest of the time is for actual work.
It seems to be a productive strategy.
Follow the little bricks road
The other insights are somewhere between the lazy and the childish. When I understand that the only tasks left on the list are follow-up tasks, or any other routine work, I start asking myself why do people need formal documents to move forward. Or I will convince myself that answering emails is not strategic, so why should it feel urgent. Let’s push it off. Excuses of that nature.
Truth is – the strategic and the productive lays also in the nitty gritty.
We can discuss big ideas and keep ourselves busy with provocative questions, but the path to real, measurable, tangible progress requires a whole layer of small bricks.
For me it’s following up meetings, for you it could be reviewing reports or updating excels.
It sounds counterintuitive, but unless you have a huge team willing to do whatever you ask them to do – those tasks will sit on your table and obstacle your progress unless you’ll take care of them.
It’s easier to accept the simple fact: the essential can be boring.
[If you are waiting for a final inspirational message in the end, I will disappoint you. I am more on the brass tacks side. Sorry.
But if you are my kind of person, you will like what I send to my list. Join us here]