The View
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It pays to sit down and take stock sometimes, even it’s been forced on you by a typhoon

An unexpected day at home is a wonderful thing, so make the most of it

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 9:58am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 10:48pm

Business ground to a halt last Friday after the No.8 typhoon signal was hoisted. At first glance this appears to be a bit of body blow for companies that lost a day’s trading but there are grounds for celebrating this enforced shutdown.

First in line to celebrate were employees who got a day off and had the added benefit of it coming at the beginning of a weekend, thus providing an unexpected long break. Hopefully employers will not begrudge giving their hard working staff a bit of extra holiday.

Other employees who had to work should have received a bonus for braving the elements; it is to be hoped that employers did the honourable thing here.

So far, so obvious but in my book this enforced break produced other advantages. Some of them were lurking on my desk piled high with boring paperwork. I strongly suspect I am not alone in this respect. The pile grows and is only diminished as more urgent tasks edge closer to their due date and are thus reluctantly dealt with.

Less pressing but frankly equally necessary bits of paperwork mature at the bottom of the pile on the spurious grounds that there is so much happening on a daily basis that there simply is no time to deal with these other matters.

This is a mendacious excuse because a well organised person allocates time to deal with matters requiring immediate attention and then earmarks other chunks of time to handle less pressing matters.

As the old saying goes, ‘if you want a job done, give it to a busy person’. In other words genuinely busy people know how to organise their time and get the job done precisely because they don’t sit around fretting over how busy they are.

The genuinely busy person also allocates time to plan ahead. Yet some people think that forward planning means getting tomorrow out of the way, lamentably however any half decent business requires rather longer time planning.

This is unlikely to be provided by earnest folk sitting behind an office door marked with some absurd label such as: ‘Department for Envisioning the Future’. It is far better to rely on hands-on types who use their daily work and experience to extrapolate what needs to be done next.

The sad reality is that so few of us (I use the word us advisedly) are well enough organised or indeed sufficiently smart to be using our time in the best possible ways. Therefore an unscheduled and unavoidable interruption to the daily routine is to be welcomed.

The sad reality is that so few of us are well enough organised or indeed sufficiently smart to be using our time in the best possible ways. Therefore an unscheduled and unavoidable interruption to the daily routine is to be welcomed

I might not have come up with great plans for the future as the typhoon raged but I am quite chuffed about managing to clear my desk. I might even have resolved to keep it clearer in future but something tells me that the best of resolutions fly out the window when a pressing matter, such as the need for a cup of coffee, looms into view.

There is another important aspect of this business of an unscheduled break. Normally, if you believe yourself to be an efficient person, you will endeavour to deal with matters as quickly as possible. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this however there is always the possibility of doing things too quickly; some matters are best dealt with slowly or not at all.

However in the rush of daily pressures there is a temptation, especially over annoying things, to deliver a sharp and, in retrospect, over hasty response.

Last Friday I dashed off a rather sharply worded email to someone who is, to put it mildly, very annoying, yet for various reasons we need to do business with this person’s company. The second point is more important than the first, however in the course of a normal business day I fear that the sharply worded emailed would have been dispatched in haste.

With more time to spare this missive found its way into the drafts box, pending further consideration. The following day the issue raised in the unsent email resolved itself and I was mightily pleased not to have complicated matters by a sharp riposte that would have made me feel better for a couple of minutes but was detrimental to the company’s interests.

Here is a fine example of why no action is better than any action. Yet the pressure of events can undermine the best intentions of restraint.

Inaction has other benefits, not least when some forms of action are provoked by a twisted sense of priority. If it takes a typhoon day to prove the point, the elements are to be thanked.

Indeed the more I think about it, the more I believe we should relish the opportunities presented by an unscheduled suspension of activities.

Stephen Vines runs companies in the food sector and moonlights as a journalist and a broadcaster

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