The odd thing about work is that most of the time you don’t get the chance to think about what you are actually doing. The good thing about vacation is that you can take a distance and see whats “wrong”. When working with fewer people than needed, and doing more things than I should; I usually find out that business as usual eat up the things I really want to do and the things I consider need to be done. It is the typical case of urgent beats important.

So how to cope with this? In an ideal world, I’d got a backup for part of the day to day work, so I could divert my attention to what I think needs to be thought. In the real world this is never going to happen.

The answer is priorities. My number one priority of course is what the company pays me for, my “real” job. That can’t change (unless my manager decides to switch my role). Then I have to choose from the gazillion things I want to get involved into and things I want to happen.

To make such choice there are several variables to take into account. First and foremost: is it useful? It makes no sense to waste time in something that brings no good. If something just isn’t worth the effort or no-one will “use it” you’re better off spending your time on more important stuff. The answer to this question might not be as easy as expected, since something that might look worthless can potentially set a base for further very cost-effective work.

Second question is: will it happen? I have a personal tendency to sort of radicalizing ideas, thus I have to be very careful with projects and ideas I want to boost, since they might not be very welcomed by the “corporate status-quo”. Two things must fall into place here. A) is the idea coherent with the overall direction of the company? B) can I market the idea well enough to those responsible? If the answer is “yes” to both, you’ve got a winner.

I’ve come to realize there’s no possible way to do everything that comes to mind. Try to cope with too many things and you’ll get none done. I like to call this the “nail” principle. Force applied into a smaller area is more effective (the same way that it’s easier to hammer a nail into a wall than it is to hammer a 10 x 10 steel plate into the same wall). It is quite difficult, since “ideas” are like children: they are hard to let go; but over time I’ve noticed I tend to like people who can discard their own thoughts and ideas fast when they realize they are not doable or not quite practical. On the other hand it is fundamental to stick to concepts you’re convinced will work and pursue them until they see the light of day. 

The important thing at the end of the day is to be sure you’re some steps closer to achieve the important goals, to take ideas to good ending, and that “everyday” to-dos don’t eat up all your time and creativity.