Time Sucks that Get in the Way of Ending Homelessness

I think homelessness should be ended with a sense of urgency, married with strategy and intelligent, effective programs. However, there are a bunch of things that get in the way on a day to day basis that suck up time and interfere with achieving results.

1. Useless Meetings – homelessness has never been ended in a meeting or committee. This is not to say meetings can have no value (they can) but make sure you know why are are meeting, for what purpose, and the intended result of the meeting. Also, don’t send multiple staff to a meeting from one organization when one will do.

2. Complaining – last I checked complaining about co-workers, other organizations, paperwork, or how hard it is to find housing did not actually solve any of those problems.

3. Gossiping – you may find it titillating to keep abreast of who is screwing who, who is about to be fired, or what client did what to whom, but I fail to see how that actually helps end homelessness.

4. Procrastinating – I think you will find action today beats planned action at some undefined later point of time.

5. Waiting for Something to Happen – whenever you have the ability to influence the timeframe within which things happen, you should, rather than waiting for others to make decisions for you.

6. Indecision – to not make a decision is actually a decision. And while you may be waiting for the perfect piece of data (or even wishing the thing you need to make a decision about just disappears) lives are lost during your time of indecision.

7. Always Answering Your Phone – YOU decide when it is best to answer YOUR phone and engage with the person calling YOU. Someone wanting to get in touch with you should not trump other important work you are trying to get done. Voicemail was invented for a reason.

8. Distractions by Email Pop-ups – remember when we did not have technology strapped to us all day long? Even if you can’t, allow me to remind you that it is possible for YOU to decide when to engage with email, not for an email notification to rule your behaviour. Turn off the pop-ups. Schedule your email check-ins.

9. Playing Email Pong – remember the classic arcade game Pong? I feel people use email that way. I hit it over to you. You hit it over to me. I hit it over to you. And so on. Call me crazy, but maybe a face to face conversation is in order, if possible, if all emails are a steady chain of back and forth.

10. Not Documenting Solutions – having the same discussions about the same issues over and over and over again is a huge time suck. Write down what was agreed to. Stay to it.

11. Being Caught up In the Incompetence of Others – you can control your own performance. You cannot control the performance of other people or organizations. Focus on being awesome yourself. Don’t waste your time lamenting how terrible another service provider is because you do not control what they do.

12. Manually Documenting Case Notes – newsflash: there are various apps you can put right on your phone that allow you to dictate your case notes. Then you just copy and paste them right into your HMIS or other data system. Go from hours of documentation to mere minutes.

13. Dog and Pony Shows – doing a series of small presentations on what you do and how you do it can eat up tons of time in any given week. Put your PR and educational stuff on a website, or pull together less frequent, but larger gatherings to explain what you do and how you do it.

14. Mistaking the Urgent for the Important – some people are busy all day, but actually accomplish nothing. The reason? They are caught up in crisis after crisis, or pressing issue after pressing issue. Being run off your feet but not getting anything actually done is a huge waste of time.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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