Catching Up is Not Possible

I’ve been sick for weeks, and am finally coming out of it to be close to healthy. (I was still coughing in the 8-degree Fahrenheit cold leaving the gym. Oh well.) One of the problems is that my work doesn’t stop if I’m sick. I bet yours doesn’t either.

Daughter #2 asked last night if I was caught up. “No, I just made choices about what could slip, and I made choices about what not to do anymore or for a while.”

As you can tell, blogging slipped. I’m not yet late on some writing projects, but I may well be. It depends on how quickly I can write my next Stickyminds column. I postponed several coaching sessions because if my brain doesn’t work, that’s not helpful for my coachees.

I’ll be at SD West next week, and was planning on having an entire day in the gym because I have no sessions on Tuesday. Nope, not going to happen. I can do a short workout and then my free day will be taken up trying to get the things done I haven’t done for the last three weeks.

You can postpone work. You can choose not to do it. You can deliver it late. You can do less. But catching up is not possible. Something gives when you can’t work.

The same thing happens when you manage a project portfolio. Just as projects don’t make up time, the portfolio can’t either. If something slips, you make choices about what to do next. You can postpone a project. You can transform it in some way. But don’t expect to make up time. Catching up doesn’t work.

9 Replies to “Catching Up is Not Possible”

  1. Ugh, that just sounds stressful, which of course, is exactly what you want (stressing your body out) while you’re trying to recover from being sick. šŸ™

    Good luck with it all, and great analogy!

  2. We never plan to get sick. However, we know that we may. Good risk management and building in slack time will help to deal with the inevitability. It’s like planning for a number of snow days when I was managing projects in Minnesota.

    Glad you’re on the road to recovery. Don’t push it too hard, we don’t want a relapse.

  3. But wouldn’t it be possible? If we really, actively made sure we never committed more than let’s say 2/3 of our time to any kind of deadline (there will be things to do at any given point in time anyway, right), then we could more easily recover from things like this, and also have space for opportunities. If memory serves me, isn’t this a core tip from “Secrets of consulting”?

  4. What a great post. You are right – I’m in the same boat, recovering and managing a consistent illness. The frustrating part is missing deadlines and performance standards, but somethings got to give.

    Thanks.

  5. This was one of my big epiphanies a few months ago. Believing that we can catch up makes it OK to not make decisions to let things go. And the pile of undone work grows and grows…

  6. This is one of the best posts you’ve written — really thoughtful and something I’ve been trying to convey to the workaholics I know. You articulate the idea better than I have been able to, and I will refer them to this post. Thanks!

  7. Yes, catching up is rarely possible. However many, especially less important things, tend to solve themselves when left alone.

    Every now and then I catch myself with things I couldn’t manage to do but somehow it appears they wasn’t important anyway or my input was negligible.

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