I was trying a new recipe for homemade mac-and-cheese the other night, and a large part of the time spent preparing the meal was simply waiting for a large pot of water to boil. I could get every other aspect of the meal done, but I couldn’t fully complete the project until that one element was ready and would enable me to put the next step into action (and the pasta into the water).
They say “a watched pot never boils” but whether I was directly watching it or not, it felt like I was waiting forever to hear the telltale roiling waters or see the boiling bubbles bursting on the water surface.
This phase of my dinner project was completely out of my hands.
It didn’t matter how many times I “checked in” on the situation, I couldn’t rush my flat-bottomed co-worker to complete their work any sooner. I could only turn-up the heat and put the pressure on to a certain point, and after that it was all up to them.
It sounds a lot like waiting for a co-worker or client to get back to you with information you need in order to complete your own part of a project, doesn’t it?
Not every situation allows you to be a happy passenger and just sit there and wait to arrive at your destination. Sometimes you have to get out and push. Here are a few things you can control while waiting for others to complete their work so that you can begin yours…
Is there anything you can do to help?
You can’t rush them, and you can’t do the work for them, but there may be some things you can do to help streamline their work and reduce the time it will take them to complete it.
Perhaps they have their own ‘pot to watch’ and are also waiting for someone or something to trickle down to them — maybe you can help fit that piece into the puzzle. Are there resources you can help access to speed them along. And extra set of eyes to proof documents or someone to drive to the office supply store to pick-up copy paper could reduce time spent waiting by a couple hours or more.
Have you cleared the decks?
While you are waiting for your missing components to land on your desk, have you made sure your runway is clear? Take the time to check that your own resources and supplies are fully-stocked and all your ducks are lined up in a row. Work ahead on other projects or check-in on work you’ve recently completed to ensure none of it is heading back to you for urgent edits or corrections. Have you blocked time on your calendar to make certain you won’t be overbooked or double-scheduled when your waiting is over and the pot starts to boil?
Are you ready for the baton to be passed?
Perhaps you can’t help the other person or department move more quickly, but are you 100% prepared to hit the ground running when the baton is passed to you? If you’ve seen runners in relay races you know they aren’t standing around checking the clock or going back to ask the other runners how much longer they”ll be. They are standing on their mark with an outstretched arm awaiting the hand-off from their teammate so they can burst into forward motion.
Are you on your mark?
Are you ready and set to go?