I’ve just once again realised how important structure is in life.
I had to submit the VAT returns of the fourth quarter of 2019 for my company. The deadline in the UK is extremely business-friendly in my opinion. You can submit your VAT return one month and five days after the quarter ended. In comparison, in Germany you’ve got to produce monthly VAT returns no later than 10 days after the end of the month.
Nevertheless, I still managed to continuously push off the work, and with three days left, I finally managed to submit the returns tonight. I actually started last week, but got interrupted on multiple occasions.
Since I only have to do that sort of work once a quarter, it isn’t the most natural to me. I needed some time to get into the groove of it. There are always some tricky cases here and there that need some fixes and it always ends up taking longer than expected.
The thing is, I made a few big mistakes here. The first one was that I didn’t allocate more time from the start for this project. The second mistake was not choosing a day/time when I was less likely to get interrupted. And finally, I didn’t set up proper SOPs and walk-throughs during my previous VAT returns.
Well, not planning enough time for a task is a major issue I normally encounter. Simply taking an extra few minutes to plan the project better before I start working on it might do the trick. I could also just add an additional 20% to the assumed time the project might take and see how that works out. However, that could backfire and make me get even worse in planning my time.
For now I will try to stop myself from starting a project too fast and just take a deep breath and first think about how long it might actually take to complete it.
Choosing a time/day where I am less likely to get interrupted is more or less impossible with my family responsibilities and the way we work at my family. There might always be something happening that needs my immediate attention. Like today, when I had to drive my wife to the hospital and look after the kids, just after I got into the accounting materials. I’m still looking for the best option here, but it might be to just get better in quickly getting in and out of projects and tasks instead of needing a lot of time to get started. Slicing up projects in a larger amounts of small tasks might help here.
And lastly, I realised that it took me 15+ minutes to find a video SOP that was missing some written explanations as well as some commands for my database to pull data. After more than one hour on the project I found a Trello board with the supposedly missing SOP, but it was empty, too. So I seem to have had the right idea when I set it all up last year, but I never followed through. Having some dedicated time to create my SOPs for my tasks, once the task/project is done, might be the best solution here. Some sort of de-briefing after the task/project that includes the logging/recording of a SOP.
To recapture, what I need to work on:
- Better plan time a task/project takes by taking a few extra minutes to think it through
- Reduce time it takes to get into work by slicing up projects in smaller, more bite-sized tasks
- Create more SOPs by scheduling time for a debrief after each project