Over the years, when thinking about how people approach getting things done, I’ve pegged them as being what I call either linear or fractional.

Most people seem to do this, do that, then do that, maybe do a couple of thisses and one of that….. They seem to see lists and check off the tasks. They may multitask, but they approach work as a list.

Others, like me, see what needs to be done, while being very aware of HOW MUCH TIME WE HAVE. Then we think of the whole responsibility, dividing it into pieces and constantly thinking about how much time each fraction of the whole is using up. Then we adjust the times as needed, because we’ve allowed for delays ahead of time. We factor them in when we plan.

My fractional approach works very efficiently for me when I am the one managing the responsibility. If the weekend is approaching and I know what needs to be done, I will go food shopping, cook, mow, do paperwork, etc. I can switch the pieces around any way I want—mow when the grass is dry or cook when I’m most motivated or go shopping when the traffic is lighter. I may fit a little bit of paperwork in between. But I see ahead of time that the weekend will give me more than enough time to do these tasks.

But my approach doesn’t work when I’m trying to fit everything in and other people keep tossing me more “this is a priority” work, after telling me the other stuff needs to be done by such and such a deadline. Everyone is very nice, but totally out-of-touch with what they expect of me, especially as a new employee.

So I’m going linear. I will do things in their order of importance, after reminding them that I still need to do such and such… I am going to stop worrying about the fact that, even with my being a great worker, I can’t finish all this work. I am going to start taking my breaks, because I can’t catch up even when I don’t take them. I’ve told them what I still need to do and they keep giving me more work.

Unfortunately, the way it works is that there is only one way they can see that all that they’re expecting is unrealistic. It’s when they see that what they expect never makes it to reality. And I will be very nice when it doesn’t.