If you’re old enough you probably remember this act on the Ed Sullivan Show.
A man would come on stage. He would spin a whole bunch of plates on the end of a series of sticks. His main objective was to get as many plates spinning atop as many sticks as possible, and keep them that way.
He would begin by spinning one plate atop one stick. More and more plates were added to the spinning equation.
When one of the plates started to wobble… the man would scurry over and set it spinning smoothly once again.
What started out as a scurry ended up in a chaotic, mad dash from one spinning plate to the next to make sure that they did not crash to the ground. As the man attended to the “wobblers” he left all the other plates at risk. While all this action was taking place he would attempt to get even more plates spinning.
The act combined entertainment value, excitement, and high drama.
In your daily life you are faced with situation after situation that calls for you to keep your plates spinning. You may even get caught up in the excitement and drama of keeping all of your “plates” spinning rather than concentrating on the most valuable of your projects and priorities.
When so many expected and unexpected tasks are thrust upon you each day you have no choice but to handle these “projects” the best you know how. The best you know how is usually less productive than you would like.
As you get closer and closer to a state of overwhelm you fall back on the way you usually handle this bombardment.
Humans have a tendency at this point to focus on the plate that gives off the “I need attention” sign. Unfortunately some of the “plates” in your lives are more important or valuable than others. Still, you have a tendency to tackle the task that is staring you in the face. During these hectic moments when you sense that events are leaving your control, you revert to action-based habits that you acquired as you grew up. You scurry. You make mad dashes to protect or maintain a project.
How you manage your responsibilities today is probably not that different from the way you handled your responsibilities when you were younger. These action habits and the results they generate are directly tied to your productivity, or lack thereof.
I’m a firm believer that “winging it” in your attempt to be effective in project management or sales is what keeps you from being as effective as you know you can be. You probably lack a systematic approach to tackling the important tasks in your life.
I am pleased that so many of my clients have increased their effectiveness using the systems that I have shared with them. But, let’s face it… unless the new systems become your preferred action habit you’ll fall back on your “old way” of doing things.
Here is an example of one of the action habits to which I sometimes succumb when an overload begins to set in.
When I have a whole bunch of plates spinning at the same time and the “plates” begin to wobble I have a tendency to be drawn like a cartoon character to a computer game, or some other convenient device, that will keep me from addressing the important issues at hand. Basically, I could just ignore the plates.
To paraphrase an infamous saying from the 60’s… I could Tune Out, Turn Off and Drop Out. This is a decidedly unproductive approach to project management.
How much of your “vital” time is spent unproductive activities?
Do you spend valuable time on activities that are seemingly important… only to find that the time you spend on these “urgent” matters keeps you from performing tasks that are truly vital to the project at hand?
Here’s the business success tip – Make a distinction between those events in your life that are urgent and those that are vital.
You may be in the midst of an important assignment or responsibility and the phone rings. How comfortable are you allowing the phone to go unanswered?
You experience a sense of urgency. You’re being drawn to answer the phone.
You know that the call will be picked up by voice mail, yet you are compelled by some mysterious force to grab hold of the receiver, put it to your ear and say “hello.”
What would happen if you didn’t answer the phone? What if you kept doing what you really needed to be doing? What would happen if you could stay with the most important task until completion?
Here are a few questions to ponder as you prioritize your tasks. These questions are based on my system for clarifying your objectives entitled, “The Structure of Results.”
a) What’s important to you about completing the task? b) What will happen if you complete the task? c) What will happen if you don’t complete the task? d) What’s stopping you from completing the task?
Here is probably the best piece of time management coaching I have ever found. You might want to try it.
1. List your most vital tasks. 2. Prioritize these tasks. 3. Do them.
To your success
Copyright 2006 Ike Krieger