Dominoes and Productivity

You’ve either seen it or done it: dominoes lined up in a row, knock over the first one, and watch the rest fall in sequence. There is something fascinating about this exercise. The main negative consequence to making dominoes fall is having to pick them up at the end.

HOWEVER, the dominoes that happen in real life can have much more serious consequences.

Professional Scenario: There’s a meeting with a potential client scheduled for 9:00 a.m. It is a 20-minute drive from your house. You get involved watching the news and don’t leave until 8:50 a.m.

Arriving late for the meeting, you apologize and spend extra time trying to impress the potential client with how you can solve her problem. Leaving at 10:30 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. as you originally intended, you arrive at your office with less time to complete a crucial project with a deadline. You have a lunch meeting at noon.

dominoDo you:

  • reschedule lunch?
  • complete the project but with inferior results and chance that it won’t affect your next performance review?
  • only complete some of the project and push the rest for later in the day, hoping you can find the time?
  • arrive late to lunch and possibly incur the frustration of a business colleague?

Personal Scenario: You’re a volunteer chairperson for an event. The chairperson of the three previous occurrences indicated that it took six months from after he’d established his committee leaders and members until the event took place.

The event has traditionally happened on the first Saturday in November. Since the six-month timeframe was effective in the past, then as long as the committee is complete by early May, everything should be fine. Figuring that it will only take a couple of weeks to establish the committee, you plan to start mid-April.

In early April, your 17-year-old breaks her leg. Since she can’t drive herself to activities like usual, you acquire extra carpooling duties. This cuts into the time you have to contact potential volunteers. It is mid-May before you have everyone in place. By then it is graduation season and it’s hard to find a date for the initial meeting. The first available time when all of the leaders are available is early-June.

Do you:

  • assume that you’ll be able to make-up the time and continue?
  • pick an earlier meeting date with whoever is available and plan to update the other leaders at a different time?
  • postpone the event until later in November and hope that Thanksgiving doesn’t affect attendance and potential profit?

Here’s the thing about dominoes: you can’t always plan how they will fall…but sometimes you can.

In the personal scenario, you couldn’t have foreseen your daughter breaking her leg. However, since this is the first time you’ve chaired this event, you might have planned more than six months. With three occurrences under his belt, the previous chair probably had systems in place to run everything smoothly. While you might benefit from some of those, others you might need to develop for yourself. Allocating seven-to-eight months might have been more proactive.

In the professional scenario, since you know that a meeting with a potential meeting is important, you might have planned to leave the house at 8:30 a.m. It is better to arrive early than late. If it’s hard for you to leave on time, consider setting timers.

Solutions for avoiding the most common domino impacts to your productivity:

  1. Schedule travel time. The entire travel time! If it’s winter and you have to scrape ice off your car, add this to your drive time. If there’s a long walk from the parking lot to the building or need to go to the far end of the building, increase your travel time.
  2. Limit your choices. Whether it is the quantity of available information on a given topic or the variety of colors, sizes, and shapes of sticky notes, there is virtually no end to our options. Having choices is great until it impacts decision-making. If there are 10,302 websites that contain the keywords you’re seeking, and each link can lead you to additional sites, your research will never end. When you decide you’ll use eight sites for your initial research and then evaluate the need for further study, you’ve set a boundary on the amount of time you’ll spend on the project.
  3. Pick the priority. A presentation for a new client that will generate $10,000 of business is more important than one for a customer who will create $1,000 of revenue. Therefore you should allot more time for creating the first presentation. Similarly, typing meeting notes for a volunteer group is probably less important than ones for your job.
  4. Manage energy levels. Work on your most challenging tasks during your highest energy times.
    Overestimate task time. Tasks almost always take longer than we think they will. As such, it’s important to designate one-and-a-half to two times the amount of time you feel you’ll need.

While our productivity can be impacted by the domino effect, we have some power regarding the number of dominoes and the duration of their influence.

If you struggle to reduce the domino effect in your personal or professional life, support is just a phone call or email away. Minding Your Matters experts can help you identify your most common dominoes and decrease their impact. Contact us via our website or phone (919-467-7058).