Even some of the best planners have this one thing that disrupts their plans: they forget to build extra time into their timeline.
So often, you make plans having ideal conditions in mind; you don’t want anything to go wrong so you don’t think about it too much. Or maybe you just don’t realize what could go wrong. You think a project should take a week, so you give it a week.
And then things start to happen.
Your boss throws an extra project on top of the one you’re already working on. Colleagues on the project scheduled vacations and didn’t tell you. You get sick or you didn’t count on that bout of procrastination hitting you.
If every hour of your day or all the pieces of a project are scheduled so precisely without allowing for Murphy’s Law, there are bound to be problems. Without planning for such things, they become that much more of a shock to you when they happen.
Simply think about your daily to-do list. How often do you find yourself getting to the end of a day with to-do items still on your list, things you meant to get done? This contributes to your frustration.
The main problem is you’re dealing with human beings, whether yourself or others. They don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. They leave things until the last minute and miss deadlines. They don’t always do work that’s up to your standard, and you find yourself babysitting them or doing the work yourself.
Moreover, you’re dealing with people that have various psychologies and priorities, often different from yours. Some are simply locked down by the fear factor: through their personal histories they have created blockages, such as procrastination, perfectionism, and a host of other maladies of the mind.
All of this is to guarantee that things won’t always go right, go as planned, or go as efficiently as possible.
When things do go wrong, the results can range from being annoying to pretty costly: delays in getting a new product to market or launching a subpar product due to missed deadlines; disgruntlement of the staff because now the pressure is increasing and morale is falling; impatience among colleagues starts to tear away at coordination of the project.
More than anything, you’re pissed off.
So how can you ease some of this frustration?
1. If the project is your own, be as thorough in your planning as possible, anticipating potential obstacles. Understand how much control you actually have over the project. Do you need other people’s help? Does the project require resources you don’t control? Are there things that have to be done, like getting permissions or licenses, even before the work begins?
2. Whenever possible, make a to-do list that takes up 50-65% of your day. This helps to reduce the frustration of seeing undone items at the end of the day. You can always add tasks to the list.
3. Understand that Murphy’s Law will definitely make an appearance. You won’t like it, but if you can allow for the possibility of things not going the way you envisioned, it helps lessen the frustration.
4. Keep in mind that, ultimately, you can’t force someone to think or behave a certain way, especially if you have no organizational influence over that person. In other words, a lot of people’s behavior is largely out of your control.
These steps won’t resolve all of your frustrations; some things will never change. But it’s a start to make the best of a less-than-perfect situation.