Jeremy Clarkson has been visiting Russia this week researching the important role the Artic Convoys played in World War 2. A documentary is to follow and I am sure he will make it quite plain in his own unique style that successive Government's have been lamentable in not awarding these brave men medals. After 70 years they still haven't be recognised. Al Murray has done similar work in getting the Government to recognise some of the remarkable feats our armed forces achieved and again asking why for so many years they haven't been recognised.
I am a keen follower of the "Getting Things Done" (GTD) methodology. In the past I have read and followed Stephen Covey and more recently David Allen. I still use the GTD methodology, although not as religiously as maybe I should, but I do reckon on balance that my time management is pretty good. Working from home you have to be disciplined and not get distracted. Having being based at home for over 4 years you forget how efficient you become, no distractions, no water cooler interruptions, no politics and fewer meetings. I use various software applications to manage my time and have got into the habit of switching off email and phones when I have an important task to complete.
However although I believe I am productive I am still a very small cog in the world I work in, property, planning and GIS. I often ask myself why does everything take so long. My concern isn't helped in that I am impatient! Over the last decade we have all very much become part of the global phenomenon of the internet age including the growth of social media. We live in an age when with a simple PC and internet connection you can surf, research, shop, communicate and all within an instantaneous virtual world. This has lead to the majority of people in the business world expecting instant answers, there is less time to consider matters, sleep on things and respond in a more reasoned manner.
Moving away from the day to day pressures on our time my frustration is more to do with the regulatory world we live in. The time taken and resources involved in promoting, submitting and getting a planning application determined can be quite long. In the minerals sector where I used to work we used to start planning for a quarry extension 5+ years before it was required. If you have a strategic development site to promote through the system you might even need a 10 year window. When you look at new legislation the time frames are mind boggling. By the time someone in Europe has said "we need a new law to control x" to when it is implemented in the UK again can take years. The same is true when yet another Minister says we need to reduce "Red Tape", it never seems to happen. When was the last time you heard that some unnecessary legislation has been taken of the statute book of when the latest quango was disbanded?
In the UK the majority of planning applications are determined with a 8 week period and a lot of authorities achieve this. However you do wonder for the many simple residential applications why it takes that long. In the City of Almere (North of Amsterdam) the City Mayor was concerned that applications for new dwellings were taking far too long. There is a big self build movement and applicants were frustrated at having to wait 4 weeks for a decision. He sat down with the planning department and simplified the process, they can turn round an application in 5 days!
I don't think there is the political will to make things happen any faster. Government seems to think we should all have multiple layers of checks and balances. That all takes time and as we all know time is money. Sometimes the Government should adopt a simplified GTD approach, they could certainly do with it in the examples I have given above and if many other areas, e.g. HS2, sorting out Staffs Health Authority, thinning out Quangos etc etc. I live in hope. I don't expect radical improvements but there again anything will be better than waiting for 70 years as Clarkson's documentary will highlight.
I continue to try and be more efficient. Yesterday I had a small meeting to deal with and parted with convention. Just before the three attendees arrived I removed the chairs from the room and just had a clear desk. We didn't have coffee/tea, we stood around some plans and got on with it. Last time we met we were there for nearly an hour, yesterday with more to discuss all done in 20 minutes. Whilst everyone was there I typed and sent an email with agreed actions. Job done, what next?