You operate in the real world.
You face challenges in your organisation. And your ability to even face those challenges depends in large part on things outside of your organisation.
Maybe a kid needs more of your time. Or an ageing parent. Or your own health. Or [fill in the blank].
Even when things are going relatively smoothly there is always more to do at work. It will always be challenging to juggle work with your other commitments.
And into this picture sometimes comes these geniuses dispensing their pearls of wisdom from on-high. From that pedestal where they sit, serenely, living their perfect life.
Don’t get me wrong. Good advice is good – whatever its source.
But good advice has certain characteristics. One of which is that it has to be realistic. For example, let’s look at kids and their efforts to learn algebra.
Most kids are eventually able to master algebra. Ask them what the value of x is if 2 + x = 5. By a certain age most of them will be able to figure it out.
But if you give them that challenge before they’ve done their numbers they’ll fail. Give it to them before they’ve mastered basic addition and they’ll fail. And is there anything wrong with them just because they fail? Absolutely not. To succeed they need the building blocks in place.
The good teacher taps into where their pupils are at and works with them at that level – and in a way that engages them. The teacher needs to be off their pedestal and down, ideally right down, where their pupils are.
Which brings me to some advice I heard recently on a podcast.
The topic was “busyness”.
The broadcaster was trying to help people who are consumed with busyness. Busy fools. Just executing on each task that appears in front of them without regard to the task’s relevance or importance or criticality.
His advice? Give 2 hours a day to “busyness”. In those 2 hours let yourself just do stuff without much regard to where it fits into the scheme of things. E.g., responding to emails from people where the issue is something on their agenda rather than yours.
In theory his advice was good.
And his advice would also be good in practice.
For some people. People who already have a well-oiled machine. People who have others to whom they can delegate or outsource things. People with staff who take care of much of the operational stuff.
But there are lots of people who are relentlessly stressed and busy. Their entire day is “busyness”. To ask them to reduce those 8+ hours of busyness to just 2 hours is, bluntly, unrealistic. They’re like the child who hasn’t yet mastered their numbers so it’s simply ridiculous asking them to do algebra.
What to do instead?
Take a small step. Flip the advice on its head. Start with spending, for example, a half-hour daily not on busyness. Commit to carving out 30 minutes daily to do non-busy stuff. Once you pause to think, you’ll have no trouble thinking of stuff.
That small step will begin a process of shifting your time out of the “Urgent” into the “Non urgent”, hopefully while staying out of the “Unimportant”!
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