Vital Time and Space to Avoid a Pile Up at Work

It’s easy to lose our sense of control with work driving on without us steering.

We pile up our To Do lists, we run between meetings and most of us firefight more than we’d like. It can feel unplanned and happening “to us” rather than of our creation..

After 22 years of driving scrape-free, the other week BANG! went my No Claims Discount! A case of “wrong lane, wrong time” when queuing on a downhill ramp. The indecisive driver ahead had 5 false starts, finally moving off to stall 6 feet onto the roundabout.

In slow-motion, literally, I shunted their rear. Yes, minor dents and scratches amounting to more than £2000 in repairs –  it’s what insurance is for. But the time, stress and increased premium next year just isn’t worth it – so it calls for a change in my decision-making.

So how do these driving lessons  help me – and maybe you – in the workplace?

Buffering!

What buffering?

Apparently the majority of insurance claims are from people, like me, who rear-end erratic drivers. We’re automatically at fault, regardless. There’s only one safe strategy – to leave generous braking space – a buffer. The best tactic is to never look at the surrounding traffic until the person in front pulls off. This avoids any assumption we might make about the driver ahead based only on traffic flow. This actually feels very un-proactive and takes practice.

At work, as in busy traffic, we’re also losing our buffer. A buffer offers reaction time. It’s all about space. We can’t predict others’ actions. We don’t know what we’ll need to respond to next. Emails, for example.

In a buffer zone we get TIME to:

  • Think
  • Manage
  • Plot
  • React
  • Be flexible
  • Help others
  • Avoid stress

We achieve:

  • Better outcomes
  • Controlled response
  • Less fallout from mistakes
  • Less time and money wasted
  • Minimal (if any) backtracking.

Being too close is a false economy. The types of scenarios are:

  • Back to back meetings
  • Too many people in a meeting or on a project
  • Always in a tightly-packed open-plan office
  • 3 page To Do lists

The results are:

  • Ever-stretching work hours
  • Conflict
  • Stress
  • Mistakes

We pay a premium price for just making the To Do list bigger, just how cramming up close to the next car doesn’t save money in the long run, financially and in terms of losing time in arranging the car to get fixed, the insurance company calls and sorting out the hire car… The only way to avoid rear-shunting is to leave ample space.

What other buffers apply at work?

1. We need to focus on whose paths we’ll cross next. There’s no point in blaming the person who halts our route ahead. It’s often not personal or intentional. To avoid collisions and conflict, we need time for understanding others’ priorities and projects.

2. Not having attention directly ahead may mean we’re distracted. We can get wrapped up in other’s agendas, politics and projects. How many times does another’s fire-fighting steal our time and direction? So we need time to plan our own priorities and spend sufficient time viewing through the windscreen, not the rear or side.

3. Before driving ahead we must ensure there’s space. Sometimes we just have to allow time for patiently awaiting our turn. There’s nothing productive about a pile up. We can’t muscle into a forum, committee, network or project and expect to be embraced and our ideas accepted. We need to ease our way in or face ongoing resistance and delays.

4. Smooth traffic around may create a false illusion. We need to look for those who’ll jam on the brakes. Even with a cheering squad, if our boss or another significant part of the chain isn’t buying it, we’ll crash. We can’t ram them out of the way. We need time for getting pivotal people on board.

By holding back we save time and money. We get to react just before, rather than at, the point of impact.

A buffer offers time for learning, planning, patience and relationship-building as well as reacting to unforeseen scenarios. It helps us balance logic and emotional intelligence.

As on the road, avoiding a car crash at work takes looking ahead as well as avoiding risky assumptions. We need space and time to brake, think, make the right choices and right decisions. We gain more control and get better results.

Other articles you may like:

The power of your first work hour

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