Category: Tips and Tricks

“Stop Talking”

stop talking business card

I wouldn’t give one to a stranger, but I’d gladly get one from a friend.

I ask clients and colleagues to interrupt me if I’m going on too long, and I’ve teamed with colleagues to interrupt each other* if one of us is hogging the floor, talking at our clients instead of conversing with them.

Facts to remember:

  • Other people need to speak.
  • We need to listen.
  • Bite-sized statements are easier to digest (and easier redirect if they’re on the wrong track).
  • Not everything needs to be said right now, if at all.

“Stop talking” is a welcome interruption when requested in advance.

*It helps to use nicer words than “stop talking” or “STFU”. ☺

Let Other People Stop You

Give your colleagues the power of No!
They’ll keep you in line.

“Don’t let me go to lunch with you!” 

Tell your favorite lunch-mate that you can’t go out because you have to finish a task. Later, have them tell you how awesome it was, so next time you’ll plan ahead.

“Don’t let me sign up for anything at today’s project meeting.”

Tell your colleague to poke you if you start to accept any new tasks or responsibilities. They’ll probably poke you harder than you like, but it will be worth it.

“Don’t let me leave my office unless I’ve handed off the mailing list.”

Tell your assistant to block the door unless you’ve finished the task. Let them tackle you if you try to escape.


Photo by Planetbene, Creative Commons License

“The Next Physical Action”: Break Out of Churn-Paralysis

“What is “the very next physical action required to move the situation forward”?”

— David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

If you know your objective but are stuck churning over what to “do” next, break the mental paralysis via physical action.

From David Allen’s Getting Things Done site:
90+ % of the to do lists I’ve seen are incomplete inventories of still-unclear things. The Next Action definition (if you’re really getting down to having no ambiguity about the next visible physical activity required to move something forward), actually finishes the thinking you’ve implicitly agreed with yourself that you’ll do. “Mom ” is an unclarified to do item. But when “Mom ” is translated into “Celebrate Mom’s birthday with a party” as a project outcome, then “Call Sis about what we should do for Mom’s birthday ” is a clear next action. Because “Mom ” is vague, it still triggers stress when you look at it on a list. “Call Sis . . . ” triggers action and positive engagement.

Leave a Bookmark for Tomorrow

Before you leave the office, make a “bookmark”  — a physical note that reminds you where to start when you get back to work. Then leave it on your chair or keyboard where you can’t miss it.

Here’s a sample from my desk:

1. SiM edits due at NOON ← this reminds me that I have a priority morning task (so I won’t start some other task and miss my deadline)
2. Pick up @ chapter 7 ← this tells me where to start (so I won’t waste time finding where I stopped yesterday)
3. Remember TPS cover ← this keeps the boss happy (I’ve forgotten several times and he’s starting to lose patience!)

Take Your Assistant to Therapy

I brought my assistant to a few of my psychiatric appointments so she could share her observations about how I work.

My psychiatrist and I both learned some new things about me, like:

  • I cheat at the reward game (“You can have a snack after you finish Task X”. Apparently I’m really good at redefining Task X midstream.).
  • If I’m successful on one day, the next day can be harder.
  • Etc.

In sum: the experience was shocking, useful, and highly recommended.

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