The Hit-By-A-Bus Theory of Getting Work Done

Before I leave the office, I do my best to get my work done or into a shape where my coworkers can still recover my work in my absence. Today I’ll explain the how and why behind this thinking.

Why Do You Do This?

I think I learned the hit-by-a-bus theory of work from my mentor Dede (D2). The theory being: “You don’t know what could happen. You could get hit by a bus driving home. Just make sure I can find your work if you’re gone.”

There are any number of occasions where you might be absent and someone needs to see your work. You might have left the office for the day, gone on vacation, or had to go into lockdown mode because of an impending business trip, vacation, or storm. Just because there’s a hurricane in Florida doesn’t mean life comes to a stop everywhere in the country. Or the customer or boss might be working after you’ve gone home for the day. Or someone might want to view the progress you’ve made or change the due date on a document while you’re out of town. Or you’re leaving the company and tomorrow is your last day on the job.

The important part of the hit-by-a-bus theory is simply to make sure someone can find your work if you are not available, whether it’s an emergency or not. Your goal should be to save someone from having to recreate the work you’ve done so far.

How Do You Do This?

There are multiple ways you can keep your leaders or peers up to date on your work:

  • Email them a copy of anything you have pending before you leave, along with notes  explaining what still needs to be done and for whom.
  • Save your work on a shared drive and–most importantly–let someone know where it can be found.
  • Leave electronic and hard copies of your deliverable(s) and notes on your desk as long as it’s not sensitive, proprietary, or subject to export control. In that case, send or save the electronic copies to a secure server authorized personnel can access and lock up or shred any hard copies on your desk.
  • Hand off a copy of your task list along with the status of each deliverable.

As a simple example of how this sort of thing works, I am writing this blog on Saturday, August 1, a few days before it goes live. That way, if there’s a power or internet access failure when Hurricane Isaias blows through town on Sunday (my usual blog-writing day), the post is still on the WordPress server and ready to go come Monday.

Look out for your coworkers, and they’ll appreciate it!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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