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Tips for Work Activity

A work colleague gave a mini-presentation about time management skills. Here are my own guidelines:

  1. Be clear about what your role in the project is and ought to be.
  2. Resist the temptation to turn away from an activity if something more important comes up (It takes time and effort to switch gears and back again; you may lose the good karma you accumulated in the meantime).
  3. Deadlines are mutable. Every deadline has consequences which you need to understand and accept (and you need to make sure the customer understands).
  4. If the stakeholder/customer cuts off a feature/line of investigation/endeavor, stop it immediately! (you have no choice).
  5. Miscommunication is an inevitable part of human interaction. Accept that fact and concentrate on:
    • establishing trust with the stakeholder
    • setting expectations in more than context and method.
  6. If you get stuck on something:
    • do you need to be the one to solve the problem?
    • can you delay solving it while you solicit outside help?
    • can you get away temporarily from it to start over (a good night’s sleep can often help).
    • set a limit on how much wheel spinning you can do on one task. After that, reconsider your options.
  7. It’s often bad to promise a specific result or event (especially if it turns out that the result is not what you would have wanted).
  8. Paul Graham’s method for solving problems: Keep your options open. Choose the alternative that maximizes your options.
  9. Make the effort to explain your internal progress/goals to your bosses/managers.
  10. Too many status reports can lead to micromanagement.
  11. If it’s possible to outsource mental schedules to a piece of SW, it can pay off after a few weeks if adhered to.
  12. Most new work methods are eventually abandoned for one reason or another. Occasionally one will bring enormous benefits.
  13. Trying a new work method (on a personal level at least) involves little risk.
  14. Frequent deliverables increases the amount of negative feedback. This can be bad or good.
  15. Overpromising is a result of a person’s inability to appreciate the complexity of a task.
  16. Keeping long term objectives in the back of one’s mind can be helpful for later brainstorming.
  17. When prioritizing, the project with the most inflexible  deadlines can also be the least important.
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