On Managing Expectations - The human Ping Pong

Today was a perfect example of what happens when you try to do too much with not enough time.

You know that feeling of having multiple things through-out your day thrash you around? Just when you think you've found your balance you make a stupid mistake, and life whacks you over the head again. Well today was one of those days.

So on my docket today were: completing some visualisation and a small report, go into town and pick up a receipt from a B&B I had stayed in, sort out getting our router redelivered, sign up for internet banking, call the immigration office to confirm the details of an appointment, and if I have time try to test out some new software for the meeting tomorrow AND if my expense account is set up submit the expense claim for the B&B. Looking at that list now I realise that today was always going to be a disaster.

The morning went well enough; I got a start on Dresden File #2, replied to a couple of emails before 8:30, completed the visualisation with plenty of time, and I managed to successfully set-up my internet banking account. I was quite pleased since I've been trying to set-up internet banking for three weeks now.

I showed my supervisor the document I'd produced, he seemed pleased. Then he asked if I could produce an additional plot based on a different dataset. I'd have to write and test the code to generate the new dataset. I agreed to get it done by the end of the day so I added this to OmniFocus and went to get coffee. Did you notice the mistake? The initial requirement was to add some visual information to an already existing plot on an already existing dataset. This took me a about two days to complete. Now a new requirement came up that meant I would have to create a decent chunk of code to generate some data we did not have to produce this new plot.


Since I have to extend the data simulation system, and I want to do this properly, I won't be done before Wednesday. I can send you what I have now and update you later, or just send the whole thing on Wednesday, what would you prefer?

I'm convinced my brain realized I'd fucked up and decided to punish me. Before the day was over I would:

  • Forget the PIN code to my ATM card right before lunch,
  • Rush lunch to try and figure out the PIN,
  • Forget to specify where I was going when buying my ticket on the bus to town, subsequently I overpaid for my ticket without realizing,
  • Lose track of time and not update my supervisor on the situation,
  • Attempt to rush through submitting my expenses (because guess what? My account was setup 15 minutes before my bus left),
  • Pee in a hurry and not wash, running out of the building with my belt half on and zipper open,
  • and finally, fail to complete this blog post on the bus

Today's lesson: Your time is valuable and limited. Do not let things consume your time without a some consideration. Do not simply say yes to things that will disrupt the your day. Breathe, give yourself a few minutes to think, look at what's on your place, consider how long it will take and then and only then reply.

Rule: You are not allowed to say yes to any new tasks in the same conversation it was suggested.