You Can’t Think With Your Tool Belt On® – 09/10/12

artwork toolbelt
 

 
Higher Value From Higher Productivity
You have probably heard it said that tasks grow to fill the time available.
You may have also heard that if you want something done, give the task to a busy person.
 
The balance between too much time and not enough time is an important one.
 
Too much time = no urgency. No deadlines.
Not enough time  = starting over. (Interruptions are akin to not enough time…before being interrupted again).
 
How the pros do it:
Over twenty years ago I met a brilliant programmer who had worked for a defence contractor on cruise missile guidance systems, and had recently moved into video game programming. When I commented that this was quite a shift, he explained how the same techniques applied.
 
From my own work in microprocessors in the early 1980s, I understood that a clock chip provides a signal to the processor to indicate when the current cycle is complete and to trigger the next process cycle.
 
Just like people, computers with a single processor cannot multi-task, but they can juggle tasks, giving each task a slice of time.
 
My programmer friend explained to me that cruise missiles have to check altitude, direction, and speed etcetera and make adjustments to reach their target and not hit other objects along the way. They cannot check everything and make adjustments all at once. If they tried, the processor would time out and nothing would get done. Instead, the programmer figures out how long a task takes and fit that into one cycle (Start – measure one thing, adjust one thing – end). If there is time left over, so be it. The next task begins in the next cycle. If two tasks can be completed back to back in the same cycle, then there is efficiency, but if only one and one half tasks can be competed in a cycle, that is a waste of time. When I met him, the same techniques were being used when programming activities in video games, object by object.
 
Conclusion
People who do not behave like cruse missiles rarely reach their target. 
 
People believe that they are being efficient by cramming as much work as possible in to the time available when in reality they are starting many tasks that cannot be complete within the cycle time (before meetings, interruptions, lunch time and such). 
 
What results is one or more tasks that have timed out and must be restarted, often from the beginning.
 
Break your work down into chunks small enough to fit within your cycle time or increase the time of each cycle to fit the task but no more.

 © Wayne McKinnon 2012. All rights reserved.

About Wayne McKinnon

Wayne McKinnon works with organizations to change their course of evolutions from extinct to distinct
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