Handling the SYDs
Remember Syd? Syd is who stops you getting on. Syd sabotages your good intentions. He might have good intentions, even, but whatever the reason, Syd is your enemy. Syd stands for
If you’re like most people you got quite a lot out of the simple exercise in the previous block, but not as much as you hoped – and not as much as you could have. But that’s okay, because productivity and time management isn’t an on/off switch. Even an improvement of “only” 10% is the equivalent of a half day per week at work!
I have to be honest and admit that the next bit is based on more on my experience of running training courses and getting feedback rather than university-grade research, unlike most of what I do and share, but I’m happy to stand by it anyway. My experience of the most common ‘SYDs’ are…
#1 Because The Boss…
I’m going to include ‘the system’ here, or other people who can influence our working life in general.
Now for some of us the problem is real, sure – your boss might absolutely forbid you to leave on time (in which case you have to look at your job, I’d say!) but my experience is that bosses are humans too and once we explain to them that we’ve got enough of our work done to a good-enough-standard, things start to change. (Again, if they don’t, you need to look long and hard at your boss! If that happens you don’t need this course, you need a course on how to get a new job or a new boss). However, my experience is bigger than this, and I’d go so far as to say that for many of us, the problem isn’t our real boss, it’s our imagined boss – the boss we think we have. You might be right, your boss might be like you think he is, but if I was with you in a cafe for a chat, I’d ask you things like “How do you know?” and “What would happen if you explained to him that…?”. All too often the answers I get to these questions are assumptions, not checked facts.
#2 Because Life…
Yup – sometimes life happens. I’m writing this on a train to the far side of the country to visit someone because they’ve unexpectedly had to go back into hospital (again). So yeah, I get it. Life. If your SYD is ‘Life’ then take time to ask yourself “is this a temporary thing?”. If it is, relax and move on – plan for when this thing stops. If it’s longer term, plan for what to do to mitigate it. There’s always something to be tried.
I know that sounds trite, but all too often we try and solve long term problems with short term solutions – and visa versa.
Something that will help here is an episode of the AIRcast – where FutureSimon meets Batman 😉
#3 Because I Forgot…
This is the big one – in terms of frequency, that is. Life is difficult and complicated and we tend to do things out of habit. There’s good evolutionary reasons for that (what we’re doing hasn’t killed us, so it makes sense to carry on doing it). The trick here is to be “intentional” about your changes. Find tools and tactics to make them stick. Aspirations aren’t enough. For example, don’t just say you want to spend time with your friends, book time with them and put it in your respective diaries. Habits don’t change themselves, you need to work at them.
We’ll look at some specific tools next, but your own ideas are best. The exercise below is one way of doing it… it’ll take 20 to 30 minutes maximum – absolute maximum!
Exercise in five steps – including tea breaks!
- Take as big a sheet of paper as you can find and do a traditional brainstorm for ideas. A huge whiteboard works very well, too. Do it for no more than 10 minutes and do it in as high-energy a way as you can manage. Try and find 20 ideas in the 10 minutes
- Then take a break – tea, coffee or a walk in the park
- Then copy your ideas onto index cards (or post it notes or something), with one idea to each card. Common sense will cut in and you’ll dump a few of your ideas at this point but don’t over-do it!
- Rank your ideas by shuffling the cards around. You might want to rank by how easy it is to start; or by how effective you think it’s going to be; or some other criteria; but you’ve got to pick something that makes sense – and be consistent
- Look at the top three. Figure out how you’re going to do them. Make a plan. Write that plan. Be specific. Put things in your diary. Tell your friends. Whatever. … but plan.
I can’t stress how important that last bit is. Magic doesn’t happen without planning, effort and practice.