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a blog by Chris Barrow

The importance of the Buffer Week (and flexibility)

Next week is one of my Buffer Weeks:

  • No travel;

  • No face to face meetings;

  • No Zoom meetings.

My only external engagement is my weekly (Tuesday evening 19:00) live open mic night with members of The Extreme Business 100 community.

I always look forward to the opportunity to spend a week working ON and not IN my business and personal life.

I plan for one of these weeks every quarter.

During the preceding three months, I create tasks in Todoist (my cloud-based task manager) in a project folder unsurprisingly called "My Buffer Week".

I've been especially looking forward this My Buffer Week - I get to dress down, start and finish when I like, take breaks, play chill out music, breathe, think, get some exercise and/or fresh air, plan and get all those fiddly, tiddly jobs done around my desktop and my house.

Also a chance to catch up with exercise (run, cycle, walk dogs) and with family.

Then real life happens:

  • I really need your URGENT help to analyse my accounts and figure out how to restore profitability;

  • I really need your URGENT help to sort out this HR issue with a team member;

  • We really need your article URGENTLY to meet our publishing deadline;

  • We really need your response URGENTLY to confirm these visit dates.

I find myself with plenty of those Quadrant #1 "urgent and important" issues as we go into the weekend - and with a second workshop day today in Birmingham, the challenge is very pressing.

So what am I going to do?

  1. Manage expectations - I've written to everyone affected by my workload to manage their expectations - "I have your request and I intend to get back to you by COP (close of play) on X date ."

  2. Compromise realistically - I've opened my Zoom diary for one day only on Tuesday and released 10 x 30-minute call times - then communicated that to the people who have asked for an urgent conversation;

  3. Make a visual list - even though I use Todoist on all my devices, on Monday morning I'll be plastering a sheet of Magic Whiteboard on to my office wall - I'll create four columns - ON business, ON personal, IN business, IN personal. I'll then physically transfer every task from digital to handwritten in the appropriate column. Then I'll A, B, C the list and 1,2,3,4 the A's;

  4. Create a visual record of progress - as each task is completed, a nice big squiggly line drawn through the task, so that I can see my progress as the week evolves;

  5. Make a start - do the A's first, the B's second and if the C's get done, that's a bonus.

I'm taking this weekend for R&R and then it will be 5 days, full on.

We shall see - I'll still be writing this blog every morning and I may update you on my progress.

One thing is for sure - if I had a week of travel/meetings and hadn't booked this Buffer Week - I'd be in trouble.

We all need at least 4 buffer weeks a year.

Wish me luck and think about getting yours booked.

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