Are we there yet?

Photo courtesy of Jonarcher (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Jonarcher (Creative Commons)

“Are we there yet?” is that annoying question that kids seem to ask from the moment you leave the driveway on a family trip.

“Are you done yet?” can be even more insidious when it intrudes on your workday because it implies you haven’t paid attention to the right priorities. Unfortunately, it seems to be asked most often by someone whose request is not a high priority to you – even if it is critical for them.

In my work, I have major projects or areas of responsibility but I also handle a lot of little things, from ordering supplies to putting in service requests. I’m pulled in a lot of directions by people throughout the day at work, but the “are you done yet” mentality could come just as easily from family or friends requesting things.

You could approach this situation by always dropping what you are doing to take care of what people are asking – but that’s not a good way to be productive, is it? And putting things off is just going to frustrate everyone involved. It’s awful when you have to keep telling someone, “Sorry, I haven’t gotten to that yet.”

One solution that I have found is to at least set up expectations. Be honest in saying that you are in the middle of a project, and suggest a realistic timeframe for when you expect to get to their request. At least that way they know that it is on your radar and you are not blowing them off. It also saves you from interruptions when they continually check in with you. If you get to it earlier – you end up a hero.

Another way to deal with these kinds of requests is to allow time at the end of your day to handle the little things that aren’t your top priority. I’ve started using the last hour of my afternoon, when I’m tired and not as focused, to take care of little administrative things and clear them out. I find that helpful because I’m not super productive then anyway. Plus, it feels good to check a few things off the list, then regroup and set myself up for success next day.

How do you accomplish all the little things others ask for?