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Tips 151-155: Don't Look to the Past in a Time of Change




Don't Look to the Past During a Time of Change

Looking to the past when the rest of the world is trying desperately to move forward prevents all involved from moving swiftly. You become the anchor, the weight, holding yourself and everyone else down. It may feel like an abrupt shifting of gears--but that's precisely what you have to do. During a time of change, you can't make assumptions. The old rules don't apply. Pay attention and stop interpreting things in relation to what used to be. Don't compare. Take in the new facts so you can respond to reality instead of your images of the good old days. Be willing to look forward and embrace new ideas.


Let People Know the Most Efficient Way to Reach You

If you travel frequently or work in a time zone that is different from your main contacts, inform your colleagues how best to get in touch with you. How you decide to communicate will vary according to the other person's style. You may prefer to communicate with some people via e-mail because it is available 24 hours a day, while you may find a quick phone call or in-person chat more efficient with others. Let the nature and importance of your relationship dictate your mode of communication.


Leave Yourself a Bread-Crumb Trail

If you must remove paper documents from folders, it can sometimes be very difficult to locate the file again. Then, you end up having single sheets of paper on your desk that need to be filed. Make it extremely easy and mindless to return items to their original homes by leaving yourself a bread-crumb trail. When you remove a paper from a file, put a Post-it flag in the spot from which you removed the document, and place a matching Post-it on the actual document. This way you don't have to remember where you pulled the document from, and when you go back to put your papers away, all you need to do is match up the Post-its. Three minutes is all it'll take to return everything to its original home, as you match up Post-it flags.


Delete Tasks to Streamline Your To-Do List

Deleting tasks means deliberately deciding not to do them at all. Take a hard look at every item on your to-do list and ask yourself: What is the worst thing that would happen if this task or project weren't done? Would my life change drastically? Would anyone else be irreparably hurt? If the answer is no, cross it off your list. Let go of the obligation and guilt of tasks you will never get to anyway, and free your energy for what truly matters most.

More often than not, the act of eliminating tasks involves saying no to other people. If it is hard for you to say no, you will always end up doing things you don't really want to. You have to learn how to balance doing things for those you care about with honoring your own priorities and goals. Only you have your eye on your big-picture goals, and only you can decide what fits into your overall life balance and what does not.

You need to get good at saying no. Think about the situations you often get trapped by. Be prepared to turn down requests gracefully by composing a few tailor-made responses; then practice delivering them. For example, to decline a request for committee work, you might respond "That sounds like a great project. I'm flattered that you think I'm the best person to handle it, but my schedule is far too jammed for me to do it justice right now. It wouldn't be responsible for me to say yes."


Delay Tasks for a Time That Works with Your Schedule

Delay does not mean procrastinate. Procrastination is about indefinite postponement; delaying is about consciously rescheduling something for a more appropriate time. Delaying in this sense is actually proactive--you are choosing the best time to do something so that it works with your schedule, work style and priorities.

Scan your list of to-dos and ask yourself: What absolutely doesn't have to happen today? Even if you've determined that a task is important, consider whether it can be postponed a day or a week to a more logical and practical time. For example, your first day back from vacation may not be the most effective time to tackle that presentation, even though it is due in two weeks. Better to go through your backlog, get reoriented and schedule the project for a few days later, when you are able to truly focus. Instead of going to the electronics store this weekend to shop for a new computer, you may want to delay it until next month, when the stores are running electronics sales.

Delaying sometimes requires that we fight our own impulse to gravitate toward tasks we enjoy or consider easy at the expense of more important, difficult ones. Delaying also involves resisting your tendency to instantly respond to requests from other people. Just because someone asks you to do something the moment they think of it doesn't mean it's urgent; perhaps they just wanted to get it off their own list.

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