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October 1999 Issue
Many Jobs Are Worth Doing Only So-So
by Michael Fick
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I went windsurfing that weekend and wrote my PDs next week on company time, while all the knee-jerkers put in 20 + hours at the office. They thought I was nuts to ignore even a meaningless, artificial deadline, while I thought they were drones to kowtow to it.

Examining most assignments, at least in our own minds, can dramatically affect our sanity and our workload.

Second question: Given that this task must be done, for whatever reason, how well must it be done?

Implied questions (bites of the elephant) include: Who suffers if it's done only adequately? If only I will suffer, can I take the hit? If my minimal effort affects others, is that effect tolerable by them, and will they understand ... or even notice ... my lame effort? Is my lame effort sufficient for their purposes? MANY projects can accomplish their desired result even if done according to the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of the work can be done in 20% of the time. That's a great rule when circumstances dictate following it and we can withstand public knowledge that we applied the rule.

And, third: Is this one of those rare tasks that merits our very best effort and is genuinely more important than our family, most of our other tasks, and nights and weekends? Such rare projects are usually obvious, and pulling out all the stops to do them with near perfection usually pays off handsomely in the long run.

The job applications that got my wife the career transfer she strongly wanted were ultimately well worth the months of continual effort we poured into each of some six or eight applications. The official that finally chose her for the transfer told her that it was very close, that every little nuance we put into her final app was crucial.

On the other hand, this month's column on stress reduction is not more important than helping my wife move furniture and crates in preparation for our move. Her shoulder hurts, it's near midnight, and this has been going on for about 18 straight days and evenings to the tune of 16-hour days of painting, cleaning, sorting, re-carpeting, etc.

That's why I sat down one hour ago, set a one-hour timer, and typed as fast as I could until the timer told me to stop typing.

Ding!

Get my drift?

It's all about prioritization, and every hour in the past 20-22 days has been critical to our meeting transfer, home sale and purchase, and career deadlines. Sorry, but that has put this month's column in the square-filling category.

But isn't that a perfect, or at least efficient, example of exactly the point I'm trying to make? It's precisely why I thought of this topic this afternoon, just when I was afraid I would have to blow this column off altogether because our house goes on the market in about 12 hours, and it needs at least three days' work to get it ready.

I thank the Air Force for teaching me to prioritize.

Think, and ask questions at least of yourself and your values, before acting. It makes life and work a LOT simpler, and a WHOLE lot more efficient. And don't most things in life depend more on efficiency and productivity than on perfection?

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