Time management expert
Some people know it naturally, some never get it, and the rest of us have the best teachers in the world – small children!
I spent the first week of our recent school holidays around a lot of small children and their parents, with a brilliant opportunity to observe in a real world ‘laboratory’.
Although I raised six children myself, once they’re off your hands you do tend to forget the day-to-day mini-melodramas: the life-shattering distress when a favourite toy can’t be found, the anxieties when an unexpected dog comes too close, the high drama of being left behind by the big kids and the frustrations of not being understood by the tall people around you.
The adult world has its own variations of the same theme. Our computer has a bad hair day, we’ve lost the car keys and our car is blocking someone else’s, we suspect the boss doesn’t appreciate how hard we’ve tried to sort out a problem, we wish the person sitting next to us wouldn’t talk so loudly on the phone, our favourite café is closed for renovations and the next one is five minutes away.
Life is full of minor irritations. Or we could say that life is full of opportunities to practice objectivity. Here are some strategies we can learn from hanging out with little people.
Whatever you focus on will dominate
Your computer is taking too long to load, or some other low-level inconvenience. It’s easy to become myopic, to sit there staring at the screen and clicking impatiently.
Instead of becoming more intensely focused on the nuisance, stand up and move. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’ve shifted your physical body for a moment. As soon as we shift our focus, other possibilities show up. Other ways of using those minutes come to mind. And then we’re better able to see the issue as the minor irritation it really is.
Give options instead of commands
You’ve got a new staff member who’s struggling with their scheduling. You want to help them allocate their time better, without appearing to be unnecessarily directive. Instead of saying, ‘Go and work on … task’ you could say, ‘which task do you think is going to give you the highest payback?’
Does it really matter?
I’ve repeatedly noticed over my 22 years of working in this field of productivity that many who focus on perfection will not only stress themselves about their work load, but will also be known as procrastinators. Perfectionism and procrastination are very cosy bed-fellows.
Focus on what matters and don’t sweat the small stuff.