Project Practitioners > Clearing The Distractions

Clearing The Distractions

By Niel Nickolaisen

I am not sure about you but it is pretty easy for me to get caught up in being busy without really getting anything done. What I call choosing activity over accomplishment. My days can be almost entirely consumed with distractions. Meetings of all flavors, vendor events, getting caught up in staff disputes, sorting through hundreds of email and answering the few that require attention, and the general smoke jumping that comes with working in IT. Over the years, I have tried various ways to clear my life of distractions. For many years, I used a Franklin Planner to keep track of and measure my primary objectives. Then, I made the shift to a Palm Pilot. Now, Outlook and my switching between a Blackberry and an iPhone. While these tools helped me keep track of daily tasks, I still felt what I needed to accomplish was getting lost in the jungle of daily events.

A few years ago, I decided to take an entirely new approach. I was already in the habit of developing an annual IT strategic plan. I would sit down with my internal customers and together we would identify their top objectives for the coming year. I would then work with my staff to turn these objectives into projects that we would put through our portfolio process. In reflecting on how to focus on accomplishment, it occurred to me that I could leverage this strategic plan as a way to filter accomplishment from activity.

So far, this approach seems to be working. Specifically, this is what I do:

After developing the annual IT strategic plan with my customers, I work with my staff and add any internal IT projects (for example, this year, extending our storage platform) that we feel enable current and future plans. We then assess any gaps there might be in our IT processes (for example, this year, we set a goal to improve our service desk response times). Next, we break these combined business / IT annual plans into quarterly deliverables. We use these quarterly deliverables as our first set of distraction filters. Each quarter, we lock ourselves in a room for half a day (to minimize any distractions) and not only assess our performance for the previous quarter but also plan out, down to monthly and weekly activities, what we will accomplish the in following quarter. With this set of monthly and weekly activities, each of us can tell pretty easily what we are accomplishing. If a week goes by and I have been too distracted to accomplish anything, I know I need to do better. It took us a few quarters to get used to this process but with practice, it is paying off. My staff has cascaded this approach throughout all of IT and we seem to get more done every quarter. I still write down daily tasks in Outlook, my Blackberry, and my iPhone but now these daily activities are tethered back to what I need to accomplish, not just get done.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Post a comment

(Not displayed with comment.)

©Copyright 2000-2017 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Stay Connected
Get our latest content delivered to your inbox, every other week. New case studies, articles, templates, online courses, and more. Check out our Newsletter Archive for past issues. Sign Up Now

Follow Us!
Linked In Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds

Got a Question?
Drop us an email or call us toll free:
7am-5pm Pacific
Monday - Friday
We'd love to talk to you.

Learn more about ProjectConnections and who writes our content. Want to learn more? Compare our membership levels.