A Friday thought on prioritisation.

What does letting go of the soft stuff really mean?

Here at BITS we are delighted to be busy.  So busy that we haven’t posted a Friday thought for weeks.  What does this mean though, really?

Does it matter?  In the main, yes it does.  Jeremy Clarkson is a man I usually find amusing, but generally I tend not to agree with his views.  However, I once read an article he wrote for The Times.  He was basically responding to someone who had complained about the building of a statue by comparing the money spent to the number of kidney dialysis machines you could buy instead.  Jeremy’s logic, reading between the insults, was that if we took that approach we would only ever buy dialysis machines.  Then we would have good health but no enjoyment from it as art would be dead.

Similarly, when asked if he should sacrifice the budget for the arts in support of the war effort, Winston Churchill replied “then what would we be fighting for?”.

The point, is pretty much the same.  If you only do what seems important at the time, some things just never get your attention.  We see this in business as much as we do in everyday life.  I once went on a time management course.  I felt my time management was OK, but there were things that I just never got around to.  The trainer said, each day prioritise your tasks.  Take the leftover tasks from yesterday, add today’s tasks, rank them and plan your day.  Then allocate some time to do the stuff that never makes it to the top.

This satisfied me somewhat.  Because some tasks never make it to the top of the list, but they still need doing.  This may seem an odd concept, if something is more important, surely you do that, right?  Or do you?  What is deemed important depends largely on your mind set and focus.  Picture an aeroplane, one of our favourite examples.  If you have a finite amount of time, which everyone does, you will focus on everything that makes a flight safe.  Things like aircraft maintenance, runway clearing, flight procedures all take priority.  So given that schedules slip and time is important, when things get behind, these tasks should take priority.  Following this logic through, airport schedules are almost always behind, therefore focus should be entirely on the tasks that achieve safe flight.  So, clearing rubbish, loading food on board, making coffee etc. should be ditched as these do not contribute to safe flight.  Would you happily fly with an airline who boast 100% safety at the cost of catering, comfort and hygiene?

In reality all these tasks are important.  However, when you bring human life into things, nothing else seems to matter.  How can you prioritise over human life?  How can you spend money on a statue when someone needs dialysis? When I lie on my deathbed I will no doubt ponder over my life and the joyous memories I have had.  Will I lie in wonder over how many people with kidney failure extended their life expectancy during my time on earth?  Or will I remember the good times I had with my family and friends?

Take time out to enjoy life.  That sounds kind of obvious when you say it out loud doesn’t it?  Shall we do it at work then?  Does this add value?  I used to work in the power industry, I still do sometimes.  The industry used to be part of the CEGB (great days).  It is actually mandatory to say “great days” after mentioning the CEGB (great days).  Why?  Well, life was great when working for the CEGB.  It was perhaps an over-manned organisation.  However, time was allowed for getting things right.  Time was also allowed for home jobs, ‘foreigners'(unofficial sub-contracting work) and general leisure activity.  Without doubt there was room for efficiency.  However, many people worked very hard in those days.  I once asked a CEGB (great days) veteran what he missed about the old days.  His answer was quite simply “Looking out of the window”.  In the new privatised regime, everyone is continually busy.  Every moment is filled with doing a priority job.  Low priority stuff just never gets done in the new regime.  However, in the old regime, looking out of the window was a valid use of work time.  Is this acceptable?

The CEGB had world class standards, developed by experts in their field.  The safety rules established by the CEGB are now used in all related industries.  If we started today, would we arrive at these safety rules?  I am sure without the time to ponder we would never get close.

So, in the interest of brevity!  We at BITS have been a bit busy.  We haven’t posted a general thought on behaviour for a while.  Will the world stop turning?  No.  Is it a good thing to not focus on the drivers of human behaviour?  Of course not.  So, we have made a little time to focus on the BITS that matter but rarely come to the surface.  This is what we do.

If you need help getting to the bits that matter but you never get around to it; you know what to do.  Call us, we are never too busy for you.



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