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Slack for the unexpected

Project managers stress the importance of building slack into the project schedule. If you think it takes 30 minutes to finish a job, give yourself one hour. If you need to be at the airport at 3 pm, try getting there by 2:30 pm. Slack is the extra time you give yourself to cater for unforeseen delays. The amount of slack time you give depends on the circumstances and your judgment.

Today I decided that I must finish everything by 1 pm in order to receive my guests at 2 pm and to leave for the airport by 2:15 pm.

I did not foresee the interruptive effects of phone calls and neighbours' visits on my workflow and train of thought. I'm the kind of person who would go to one room to get something and along the way get distracted by something else I see. By the time I get to the room, I forget why I had to be there. So you can imagine what happens when I get distracted by a phone call to say good-bye or a well-intended but unexpected visit from a friend.

Slack is also factored into a project to accommodate interruptions and distractions that are unexpected. Decisions require time to analyse, choose, and commit to action. When there's not enough time, decisions are made haphazardly or not at all.

I took out the Dutch cheese, luxury French paté, spreadable butter, and fruit from the refrigerator. In my last minute frenzy to pack everything, I wasn't sure if it was worth taking it all. Then I got distracted by having to go upstairs. And when I walked downstairs, all I could think of was the need to catch the plane.

Only when I arrived to an empty fridge in a cold house in a quiet Dutch village did I lament over the forgotten food left in my kitchen. I had simply not figured in the slack to pack the food. The cost of not having enough slack is an empty stomach in a village where everything is closed on a Sunday.

4 January 2004 Sunday

Related links:
London house to let
Personal decision making
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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