Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Drop Everything Tasks

A lot of things can wait, in the end. Usually, running that test case can wait another day. Fixing that bug that fails every night can wait. Adding that other check won't really kill you if you go without it for another day.

Then there are the tasks that really truly can't wait. They are very few and far between, but there are some tasks that are drop everything tasks. A Drop Everything Task is something that threatens the running of your group (or worse) the business if they don't happen Right Now.

Examples of drop everything tasks are:
  • a major customer who is down
  • large numbers of customers who are down
  • the complete failure of your automated tests
  • the complete failure of your lab
As a rule of thumb, if you can think of more than five Drop Everything Tasks, you have too many. If you have more than one at a time, you have too many. Narrow your criteria. Drop Everything Tasks are the really really bad ones, the times when nobody goes home until this is fixed.

When you do have a Drop Everything Task, it really does mean to stop doing everything else and work on this. Meetings? Skip them, or reschedule. General daily duties - triage and the like? Skip them, too. You can swing back around and pick them up later.

Learn to recognize when you're faced with a Drop Everything Task, then drop everything and work on it. Your group, maybe your business won't get on track no matter how many little things you do; you need to do the one Drop Everything Task first.

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