Reactionary workflow

While reading the book Making Ideas Happen I learned about the concept of a “reactionary workflow”. A similar principal exists in the programming world. This is known as scope creep. Both eat up your day.

An example of Reactionary workflow

Ever sit down at your desk with all the ambitions in the world to accomplish a set task. Things start off great. But then you receive an email about a project you worked on a few weeks ago and the client has some questions.

You are not quite sure of the details so you look into the request. 5 or 10 minutes later you formulate your response. Now might also be a good time to grab a cup of coffee on the way back a coworker asks if you have time to talk about a new project and before you know it you have wasted half an hour and you are no longer focused on what you set out to do.

Reacting to things as they come up causes your brain to switch gears and more importantly stops you from accomplishing the big idea.

An example of Scope Creep

I think every one who has done any programing has experienced some form of Scope Creep.

You might want to create a simple To-Do list. Some one might ask you for the ability to due dates and priority, then you need to add calendar support and reminders. Pretty soon you have created an entire project management system.

Sure all of these features are great but did you set out to create a project management system or a to-do list? Scope Creep eats up time and usually adds little value to the end product.

What can you do?

Some people will refuse to check email in the morning, basically working off of yesterday’s news. If something is important then set the expectation to speak in person or phone. As Merlin Mann says, what is important to you is not always important to me.

Make meetings as short as possible, don’t make a meeting for the sake of making a meeting. Always leave a meeting with an action; meetings are not for public service announcements.

Manage your daily tasks.

This can be as simple as using a To-Do list and setting your priority before you start. See what can be done in less than 5 minutes. It will usually take you longer to enter the small talks than it would to simply do them. Clear them out leaving the longer tasks.

David Heinemeier Hansson mentioned that splitting your To-Do list of 100 tasks into 10 smaller lists will create manageable amounts of work for your self.

Avoiding Scope creep can he difficult but always ask why. Why do we need to do this? What will it take to complete it and what will it offer us opposed to not having it. Maybe it is a feature that can be added in the future. It is better to have a product to show, Ship with limited core features and build on them down the road.

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