by CIO Staff

How Fast Do You Work

Mar 28, 20053 mins
Personal Software

Why is is that some people always seem to get their projects done on time, while others are cramming at the last minute, using every second right to the end.

Perhaps this starts in school. Every teacher knows at least one student who always waits until the last minute to tackle that major paper. All students receive the assignment at the same time and everyone receives the same instructions.

When a project is assigned as due in three weeks, some students begin researching that night. They might work on it at a set time each day or night, so that by the third week, the project is complete. They spend the day or night before turning in the paper conducting one final review of the finished work.

On the other hand are the students who hear that a major project is due in three weeks, and internally say, “I have nothing to do until week three.” Others translate a three-week due date as only having to do a massive amount of work on one night, that is, the night before the project is due. They actually plan an all-nighter – weeks in advance – to complete the project.

Interestingly, everyone ends up in roughly the same place, all turning in the project on time.

The reality is that everyone works at a different pace. For some, it is more comfortable and manageable to break down the work into smaller tasks performed over a longer period of time. Others prefer to deal with it all at once, no matter the intensity or length of time. They essentially reverse-engineer the time estimated for completing the task from the time it is due and work backward.

The same holds true in business. Everyone knows someone who always seems to be working on multiple threads, with all projects moving along in parallel. Others run more in a serial mode, with the most pressing thing being done at that moment, and when that project is crashed through, the next one is tackled, with all the personal resource available.

As managers, we might confuse doing it all at the last minute as a shortsighted way to work. However, there is a distinct difference between the doing of something and the thinking about what is to be done.

We may watch someone working late into the night to complete a report due the next day – a due date known for weeks – and think that the manager is not very good at managing his or her time. What we may fail to see is that this person has been thinking about the details of the report for weeks; about the proper content, just the right argument, the broader implications to the business and the ultimate impact to the business both internally and externally.

The physical, last-minute production of the report is the detail, not the true value, which was the thinking time invested when it looked like nothing was being done.

So whether you work in parallel or serially, if it works for you and the required results are being met, keep your pace your own.