A Day of Research Proves Taco Bell Analysis Still Valid

Once upon a time, prior to the crazy gravy train job that I just finished, I was an uber efficient, ass kicking picture of productivity in my own mind. I could get things done without flinching. I'd not yet met a Gantt chart that I couldn't tame. I could multi-task. I could work 18 hours after having only slept on the train back to the CT after a wild night out in Manhattan. Some days I could even eat peanut butter on saltines and whistle. I was that good. I was sought out by peers for tips on being productive. Then came the my unstructured work assignment.

The position was everything I wanted. I could work from anywhere on the planet connected to the InterWeb. Work could be done at any hour of the day as long as deadlines were met. And, I was my own boss. Uh oh.

The warning bells sounded, "Alarm! Alarm! Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!" but they were drowned out by the hippity hop on my iPod. Procrastination loves lack of structure; it quickly took over my life like it once did in high school. I needed to find my way back to the path of efficiency and effectiveness that I once owned like a Schumacher owned Formula Un.

Today my closeted OCD reached an undeniable level. I could procrastinate no longer...right after I set-up an online game of Risk. I spent the better part of today figuring out how to be more productive at work. Super, right? The not so super part is that I didn't really accomplish anything worth while other than reading posts and articles on a lot of blogs and websites about how to quit procrastinating. The irony is stifling.

In the end, I learned what I already knew. In fact, most of it will seem like common sense to many of you, particularly my fellow CubeFarm nerds. I had done many of the Zen Habits and GTD stuff during my period of ass kicking. The key to any system for getting work done is to know what's in the queue, prioritize it and then attack it. Duh. I started doing this well in 2000.

The Y2K crisis was over for many gianormous companies during the closing months of 1999 as they had implemented solutions for the end of humanity by then. At least that was the case for the client to which I was assigned in January 2000. I can't disclose much except that the gig was high dollar and thus high profile. The burn rate was through the roof. Most of the engagement team logged over 300 hours that month; our small team neared the 400 mark. I had a starched shirt, razor and deodorant in my desk drawer.

We were still in the first few days of the engagement but work was slamming our team, the group responsible for finalizing the deliverables and presenting them to the client's CIO. We couldn't afford to keep drinking out of a fire hose or we'd all be toasted shells of ourselves. Our epiphany happened around 2 AM as we polished off dinner on some day ending in "y."

DL, BO and I were cleaning up the carnage of Taco Bell wrappers when ASJ, the man with three first names, told us to stop, have a seat, stay awake and take notes. From now on all of our Action Items (mmmm buzz word) would be color coded and prioritized according to the spectrum of Taco Bell hot sauces. And so it was.
Taco Bell Analysis Levels
  • FIRE: Critical path item that must be addressed within 2 business days. Definite integration dependencies.
  • HOT: Critical path item that must be addressed within 5 business days. May have integration dependencies.
  • Mild: Must be addressed within 10 business days. No integration dependencies.
We followed those general guidelines. The time windows may seem a little soft. You won't think so if the fire hose is on full blast.

Check out the following links for help with getting your work/life/stuff under control.
  • LifeHacker: an award winning blog about hacking technology and daily life tasks to improve your productivity. This is a daily read for me.
  • Getting Things Done: David Allen's site that is like Stephen Covey for net heads.
  • Zen Habits: solid productivity site that presents similar content to GTD, but in chunks that are more easily accomplished.
  • Jott: call an 800 number, speak and send email, i.e. create To-Do's on the fly
  • Creating a To-Do List via Jott & Gmail: a great tutorial on combining Jott and Gmail filtering & labels to get things done.

1 comment:

smac said...

if only the issues came with a joke on the wrapper...