Catching Up

Workplaces are full of an activity called catching up. After an illness, after a vacation, after a sabbatical, you spend hectic hours catching up. There is normal work, and then there is the occasional period of catching up.

That's the hope. The reality for many is that, "I spend all my time catching up!" There is no normal work; it never gets caught up. Workers succeed in getting the work load reduced, and find themselves still spending every day catching up.

If it were the fault of the boss, then leisure time would be different. The lawn would be mowed, the cabinets cleaned, the windows washed. In fact, catching up is a common lifestyle. The on-top-of-it lifestyle is considered an impossible dream.

What could it mean to be catching up all the time? What would one be catching up with?

Evidently, things that you want to do more get put off in favor of things you actually want to do less. That is, work lower on the value scale is done instead of work higher on the value scale. Work that should have been farmed out or put off for a slack period was done first. The main stuff was put off for the slack period.

Ask people why they do lesser tasks first, and they say things like, "I can't turn people down." "I don't delegate well." "I get interested in the wrong stuff." What they mean is: "My value scale is so fuzzy, I'm never sure where things fit."

In the catching-up life, an attempt is made at gaining values, but without being sure what values. It is an issue of certainty. When I am not certain of what values I pursue, and what methods I prefer, then I am easily sidetracked. In hindsight, I see what I really wanted to do, but at the time I was not so sure.

To change the catching-up life into the on-top-of-it life, you need two skills: developing a clear value scale, and identifying essentials. Once you have the scale and the habit of comparing things to it by essentials, then it is always obvious what needs to be done first and what needs to be farmed out or postponed or not done at all. You can leave endless catching up to government bureaucrats.

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