Managing expectations when you don’t know what to expect.

We’ve talked before about Empty Set being a very small Small Business. We’re two people day in and day out, and one of us (not me) is a non-stop new idea machine. While not minimizing what a blessing it is for a small creative business to have a very invested, always inventive Creative; I do sometimes have to be sure I’m managing the expectations of what we’re reasonably able to accomplish.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, but it’s a needful and necessary thing to be able to manage one’s workday and goals so as to best manage the vagaries of a creative business. If your deadlines are too rigid and the story isn’t quite right, for example, something has to give, and that should always be the deadline if you’re committed to putting out great product.

So what to do to make sure the “making for the masses” gets done reasonably well, as close to on-time as possible, within budget and still be able to accommodate new ideas and opportunities?

We’ve come up with several policies that work for us, mostly out of necessity:

  1. Gamify what you can gamify. Scott works better under a bit of pressure, and without creating said pressure somehow, he’ll sometimes get behind where he wants to be in any given writing day. The fix? One simple fix was to add an egg timer to his desk so he can “race” himself to see how long it would take to get through 20 emails. Or maybe to give himself ten focused minutes with the wireless internet turned off on his machine so he doesn’t get distracted.
  2. Say no when you mean no.  Simple, right? But often easier said than done. Especially when your solitary writer’s life in made much richer by social media, and it’s easier than ever to reach out into the ether. When we first started working together, some folks who were used to unfettered access to Scott were quite upset to find a stranger saying no to requests for guest blog posts, or guest narration from Scott. But I’m a firm believer that a “no” is better than a “yes” that never quite gets done. And honestly, there’s a balance that needs to be met between getting your bills paid and helping out other folks with their stuff.
  3. Set reasonable goals. No one can do everything, and most folks are already behind the eight ball in getting the things done they want to get done. A healthy way to sort that out is to give yourself enough time for each task. It might seem hard, but really all it takes is a stopwatch and a bit of regularly scheduled programming. Time all the routine parts of your work for a week. Don’t make adjustments, just measure. Then plan your schedule using those time allocations. If you get better at the task, then you’re going to end up with more free time in the day, and that’s never a bad thing. Easier to add more than try and get your overfull schedule under control.
  4. Get enough sleep. I know, you guys are saying “that’s not part of the workday!”  And while I have to agree, I will tell you that nothing makes the Empty Set office sing with efficiency more than a well rested crew. No matter who you are or what amount of sleep you think is “enough”, your body has it’s own set point and it’s own needs. For most people, that set point is between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Trust me, you’ll get more work out of your work day if you’re getting your rest.

Are there more  ideas to get more from your workday? I’m sure there are. We’ve got a few more I’ll probably talk about in another post, but let me know your ideas in the comments!

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  1. BigJohn

    A big one for me is office ergonomics. If I’m not comfortable, I won’t be as productive. This includes chair type, placement and height; cooling or heating, as appropriate, music (personally, I can only work to non-lyrical music cuz otherwise I get distracted by lyrics); and minimizing distractions. Sometimes that’s just closing the door and forwarding the phone; other times it’s turning OFF the phone and/or wearing a headset so people casually walking by think I’m on the phone.