Friday, October 26, 2012
Overload, Productivity, Perfectionism, and Assertiveness
Too few hours in a day.
Too many tasks and projects waiting for your time and attention each day.
No one can change that for you except you!
As my title suggests, I see a strong link between overload, productivity (or the lack thereof), perfectionism, and assertiveness.
Here are some of my thoughts:
Focus on being adaptable and resilient, not on being perfect. Yes, we all wish to prevent mistakes from happening. That’s a good thing and lets keep working on that. At the same time I urge you to work on the other side of the equation: acknowledging mistakes to learn from them and to move on – to move on wiser, more adaptable, and more resilient than before. If you really need to be perfect, than become perfect at learning from your mistakes and at strengthening your adaptability. Not everything can be completed to perfection. Not everything has to. Distinguish, choose, and adapt or die.
What captures your attention controls your day. What’s controlling your day today? Who is in control of your time and energy today? What do you focus on? What do you allow to grab your attention and distract you? Is it a welcome distraction, helping you pause and refuel, helping you take a step back, relax, and open up creativity? Or is it a distraction that clogs up your already crowded agenda and mind? Is it a distraction tied to procrastination, denial, risk-avoidance or other interesting but often disastrous dynamics?
Don’t over-think when you have to make decisions. Sure, you want to and need to look at the pros and cons of a diversity of alternatives, but in all this analysis don’t forget to learn to be comfortable with the fact that any of your options can lead to failure. Know when enough thinking is enough thinking.
Practice not just to delegate but also to ignore, whether for the time being or completely. Every day there are tasks and odd jobs that cease to be a task or job after I ignored it for a while. They either get done by someone else who couldn’t ignore it, they can be combined with other tasks, or they cease to exist because life and work changes constantly. How often have you helped a loved one find something, spending quite some time on it, to only find out they didn’t need it after all? How often have you prepared a document or resent something that the recipient later found or didn’t need after all. Make sure to find out how important and urgent a request is.
Yes, I love the open-door principle, and I love the closed-door lets be clear about when not to interrupt me principle. And it doesn’t stop with the door, of course. My smart phone and laptop are there to benefit me, not to continuously and needlessly interrupt and distract me. It’s okay to not answer the phone immediately. Anyone remember the days when a telephone was a heavy device standing on a table or hanging on a wall with a long cord – If you weren’t nearby you wouldn’t hear it ringing and you couldn’t pick it up? Sounds like good old days? Just don’t pick it up if you’re focused on something that you made a priority. Just don’t be tempted to respond to the sound alerting you to a new text or e-mail. Let it be, it will be there in an hour or at the end of the day. Of course you can check who it is, especially applicable for working parents who want to assure their children aren’t calling in some state of great distress, or for people on-call in critical stages of whatever business process. Just know when to resist the temptation.
Last and most importantly, practice your assertiveness. Learn to say “No, not now – it’s not urgent. I will work on that at x pm”. Learn to say “No, that is not important although I’d love to spend time on this if I wasn’t so busy”. Learn to say “I’m sorry, I miscalculated that. I have to give this task back to you or to someone else” (or: I have to postpone this to a later time). I’m sure you can think of variations to this theme of assertiveness.
Only so much can get done in 24 hours, and hopefully sleep and relaxation with loved ones is part of this time frame. Tame your perfectionism, practice the skill of ignoring, know and influence what grabs your attention, become more productive by being unreachable, and assert yourself – no one else can do it for you!
Any thoughts you want to add?