How to prioritize tasks?

Yesterday was my last day at Metso this summer. I can’t believe how blazingly fast the time flew. In May and June I was just getting familiar with all my new responsibilities. Then June was already all about taking care of the production while the staff was on their well-deserved summer holidays. Now it’s beginning of August and it’s all over, but new adventures await. There was an important lesson learned this summer, I’ll come to that later in this text.

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As I wrote in my previous blog post I was substituting for the supervisor and production planner for the Heavy Value Stream in Metso Automation Valve Technology Center in Vantaa. Our stream was a tight bunch of professionals teamed up in order to secure the deliveries to be on time, plan everything in advance and to solve the problems in production the same second they occur. The team consists of a stream manager, supervisor, production planner, buyers (for the components we need), development engineer and most importantly around 30 hardcore metal workers, precise quality inspectors and warehouse workers to keep all this running.

It was truly an honor to work in a group like this.

July was extremely busy. As a supervisor of the factory it’s always up to you to fix whatever hold there is in the production. And oh boy, do those cases vary beyond unimaginable.  Even though in principle we just have a valve that can be open or shut, which is then operated with an actuator. But it’s never that simple with the material, functionality, painting, pressure testing, emission, quality and fire-proofing requirements. And these are just a portion of the possible requirements.

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As a production planner you really need to see the big picture. You’re planning the production for 2014 already. The number of factors to take into account when new orders are scheduled is quite stunning. Capacity of the factory, and the development of it, hundreds of suppliers with their own delays, holidays etc and top of all that the most important thing: the ever-changing needs and requirements of the customer in their own process!

When you combine these two positions you’ll get my summer job 2013! It was so amazing.

If I had to say what was the greatest lesson learned this summer I would say prioritization. Let me explain. 

I always wanted to be the kind of employee that gets every single task done right on time, or get back to some always within hour or so. I learned that in certain positions  it’s simply not possible anymore. Of course you can always lengthen your day, but I don’t know how long you can stay productive if you always work for eleven or twelve hours.

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The key thing I learned here was that not everything needs to be done immediately.  There ARE things that need to be handled immediately, but there are also things that need to be done “only” on the same week, or the same month or by the end of the year. The valuable lesson for me was that you’ll die in stress if you try to finish ALL the tasks, projects and arrangements always ASAP. And there’s no hippie ideology behind this, I think it’s important to be aware of it. You can lower your quality of working in order to finish all the tasks, but rushed decisions and “quick-fixes” seldom are the best option. I can’t say that this philosophy would work in ALL the jobs there are, but I found it useful in my work this summer. I think it’s really an important skill to recognize the priorities of different tasks.

Different things have different priorities. Everything can’t be on priority number 1.

My next challenge is to work as an energy ambassador for companies from the Vaasa-region. This is something totally different from the stuff I did at Metso, but I guess it’s good to try out different things in your life. Energy Ambassador visits ten countries and finds out all the latest in Finnish cleantech and energy solutions.

You can follow my journey here: http://energialahettilas.fi/

That’s all for this time! I wish everyone awesome last weeks of summer and I hope everyone have had as rewarding experiences at Metso as I did!

-Pentti

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