Libraries, the universe and everything

Planning, prevarication and seeing the bigger picture
November 9, 2012, 22:19
Filed under: Chartership, Events

I’ve recently been reflecting upon my event planning and management skills, in part prompted by some work I’ve been doing on my Chartership portfolio. I’m still trying to straighten out my thoughts so this post will probably be more rambling than usual, but if you can bear with me please do, and I’d really appreciate any advice you care to offer.

So far, I’ve project managed a literary festival, organised a 2 day senior management retreat, and worked on a variety of meetings, lectures and conferences in a variety of ways. I really enjoy the challenges posed by events, the need to work towards a set deadline and the pressure of delivering something public suit my working style. I like responsibility but I’m not especially fond of being in the limelight, so being the person hiding behind a clipboard on the big day makes me very happy. I’m also reasonably organised, and making lists is one of my most favourite things in the world.

So far so good. But lest I start to come across as complacent, let’s take a look at the other side. Despite the lists I’m not always good at seeing the bigger picture, tending to get caught up with details. I can become too emotionally invested in minor things, when my energy would be better spent elsewhere. I get quite stressed if I don’t know how much authority I have for decision-making, and even more so when I don’t receive all the information I need to do something properly. Not receiving an adequate response in a timely fashion has been known to turn me into a gibbering heap.

So what can I do about this? Homing straight in on the obvious I think it breaks down into two main strands – managing myself and managing others. With regards to the latter, there are clearly some quick wins. I should take more care to extract all the information I need (along with necessary permissions/authorisations) at the earliest possible opportunity. Conversely, if I want someone to do something for me I need to communicate effectively about both task and deadline. And I really should pick up the phone more, especially when I’m looking for a rapid response.

Managing myself better seems somewhat more challenging, especially as I’m fairly sure I already know where I’m going wrong. To start with I should make a point of translating some of my lists into a project plan, and sticking to it (in fairness I have been known to do this). When I’m stressing about a specific thing I should take a step back and assess how important it is to the overall piece – how much of my blood, sweat and tears is really justified, and whether there’s a different/better way of achieving it. I also need to remember that it is never too early to get quotes for things, and that lining up suitable suppliers in advance saves a lot of hassle later on.

Another thing which would also really help is to improve my information management. (I know, what an admission!) In the quiet times I’m pretty good about managing my inbox and keeping my documents in order, but when I’m rushing around like a mad thing it all falls apart, which then adds to my stress levels when I can’t find things.

And of course there’s the perennial prevarication problem. I’m extremely good at raising my own blood pressure by avoiding getting to grips with certain things until I absolutely have to, which is usually a really bad strategy. (So why do I always do this to myself then? I only wish I knew.) It has just occurred to me that a smart way of sorting out these last two issues would be to use prevarication time to clear out emails or file documents properly, then at least if I’m not getting on with bigger matters I’m at least helping myself achieve something.

So really, this all boils down to a fairly simple solution – get all the information necessary, do things as early as possible, don’t sweat the small stuff. Oh, and be more organised. Easy!

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