Separate Doing from Managing

When you try to manage a project while doing the work at the same time, things often fall apart, and you do neither well. Get-It-Done Guy has tips on how to separate doing from managing.

Stever Robbins,
October 8, 2013
Episode #284

Page 2 of 2

You Can’t Both Do and Manage Well

There you are, totally in flow, writing your marketing report. You suddenly realize there’s a chapter you can’t write yourself. You hop on the phone and start calling colleagues to persuade them to help out … and four hours later, after checking your email, reading a newsgroup, surfing the web, and browsing Tumblr, you remember your marketing report and try to get back to it.

When you manage and do at the same time, you either lose track of the deadlines and management big picture, or you lose track of the details needed to do. Either way, chaos.

Separate Managing and Doing

Separate managing and doing. Before leaping into a project, or even a focus task, do your managing up front. Then, leap into action with full commitment, putting your management decisions into action. 

When grocery shopping, make your shopping list and order it by aisle, before entering the grocery store. Then just grab stuff and go.

When event planning, decide who buys materials, who makes decorations, who bakes the Oreo Ice cream cake, and who puts up the decorations. Figure out when each person needs to be there, and give everyone the info in advance so everything just happens perfectly. Oh, yeah: designate an event dominatrix. Then when someone doesn’t follow the plan, the dominatrix can whip them into shape.

When calling a meeting, decide the meeting’s purpose, decide the topics and order you’ll discuss them, and distribute an agenda. Also designate timekeeper, scribe, and facilitator before you begin the meeting.

When writing a report, identify your sources and submit requests for information up front. Have a home place to put your reference materials as they come in, so you can jump into writing and grab references as needed.

When starting a work project, define your deliverables, sketch out the tasks to be done, assign tasks, and ensure everyone knows who’s in charge of what. Nothing’s worse than a project where people don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing.

Divide Long Projects into Phases

With big projects, you may not know enough to do all the management up front. For example, you won’t know your Doomsday Device lead time until your scientists have perfected the technology to vaporize the remaining moon. In that case, do the planning for your first phase in detail. Then schedule a second planning meeting to plan the next phase. In each phase, manage what can be managed, then jump in and do. At the predetermined time you chose during your previous round of managing, stop doing, step back, and manage some more.

Our minds are sensitive, delicate flowers. They can’t be expected to zip back and forth between the completely unrelated tasks of managing and doing. When things start to fly apart, stop and notice if you’re trying to do and manage at the same time. If so, separate them out. Start with time solely devoted to identifying tasks and resources, setting time and space limits, and delegating tasks. Then jump into the doing and do wholeheartedly until your pre-determined time limit. Then switch back into managing mode and see where you are. Use this for tasks as small as writing a memo or as large as a multi-year project. At any given minute, you can be a lone manager or a lone ranger, just don’t try to be both at once.

For more tips on how to work less and do more, check out quickanddirtytips.com/get-it-done-guy.

Project management images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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