Our dirty little secrets

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 21st August 2016

My brother is visiting from Ireland and of course staying at our place. While we generally keep the house clean and tidy, we spent the last few days doing an extra special round of cleaning. Cupboards, the fridge, drawers, under couches and beds, shelves, blinds. Places that privately we put up with being the dirty corners of our busy lives.

But when someone comes to stay, and those corners may become public places, we get busy cleaning and polishing. I was actually astounded at how much dirt I have been living with privately over the last couple of years. That said our house is generally clean, and I suspect (read hope) that we are just normal.  I have vowed that I will clean those drawers and corners in future at least every couple of months. It did not take long, and they looked and felt much better for it.

Is there a parallel here with our work spaces? Do we let things get messy when it is private, but feel the need to clean up when it might be public? I certainly see my coaching clients clearing their inbox before I come in as they know I will be looking at it!

Some of our work is very public, like meetings. And we are usually pretty good with managing those as others are involved, and it is immediately obvious when we are messy with meeting workload by turning up late or unprepared. But when it comes to how we manage our priorities, or our email, that is a much more private thing. Nobody gets to see how you manage this work, so we can get a bit messy. We manage this work in fragmented piles, and often leave things until the last minute as nobody will notice until it is overdue. Just in time is good enough.

But managing this work in a messy way can cause stress, a drop in work quality, a clash of deadlines or even lead to one of the biggest causes of productivity loss – rework. Don’t just wait until this work becomes public to get it organised. Make an effort to keep your inbox under control and your task list up to date whether other people can see it or not. Manage your work with integrity. They say that integrity is when you do the right thing even though nobody else is looking.

Ok, back to my cupboards. I think I see some more dirt! I hope my brother appreciates this.

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