You are a window washer.
Not only are you a window washer, you are the world’s best, most efficient and fastest window washer.
You use the latest and best technology and the latest and best cleaning products to clean your windows.
There is no possible way you can improve your speed or efficiency and get windows cleaned in less time.
You have seven windows to clean.
Each window takes 10 minutes of your time and there is no conceivable way of cleaning a window in less time.
You have exactly one hour available to you to do your work.
What are you going to do?
This is a conundrum facing hundreds of thousands of people each day as they toil away at their jobs.
How do we possibly get everything that needs to be done, done in the time allotted to us?
It seems to me that rarely does a week go by without me meeting someone struggling with a seemingly intolerable workload while often serving more than one master.
I frequently hear of people having unplanned and unscheduled work dumped on them by bosses who seem to care little about existing workflows, while insisting their direct reports drop everything they’re doing and turn their attention immediately to the task dropped in their laps.
Sadly, these same managers see nothing untoward with their expectation of all tasks expected of their direct reports to still be completed and delivered as if no other responsibilities had been dropped on them.
So, when you have seven windows to wash with each window chewing up 10 valuable minutes of your time and you have 60 minutes available to you, what you do?
You clean six windows. Because that’s all you can do. And the seventh window gets cleaned later.
Knowing that your capacity is six windows and one hour, would you, Mr. Window Washer, reasonably expect your assistants to clean seven?
In the workplace, wishful thinking, devising new strategies and allowing yourself to become stressed to the point of desperation will contribute absolutely nothing to getting the seventh window cleaned.
There is a simple arithmetic component to task completion. A three-minute egg is not ready after two minutes and 45 seconds regardless of how rushed you are for time.
For far too many, the solution lies in staying late and/or coming in early in the hopes of getting caught up and pleasing everybody.
When we do this at the expense of time away from family, friends and other activities, it will not take long for resentment to kick in as we find ourselves shifting from being willing to grudging employees.
We can only do what we can do in the time allotted to do so. There needs to be reasonable expectations placed upon us without additional and unreasonable ones following.
Many managers believe their title (and authority) give them the right to place unrealistic demands on their direct reports whenever they please and, sadly, the hierarchical structure of many organizations encourages them to do so.
I have frequently been asked to speak to managers on behalf of their employees and point out the stresses being placed on them by seemingly unreasonable demands.
Each time I’m requested to do so I follow a very simple strategy.
I tell the manager a story. It begins like this.
“You are a window washer…”
Till we read again.