Years ago, I picked up a small book entitled, “Simplify your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Really Matter by Elaine St. James (Hyperion, 1994). This book contains practical ways to simplify our lives in our household, Life style, finances, job, health, personal life with a concluding chapter on “hard core simplicity.” I believe the philosophy of simplify can help us live out with the “one thing at a time” attitude because as we get make our lives less complicated and cluttered, we can be freed up for innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm. If we’ve stopped and analyzed the “why” of the task, and stepped back and seen the task in light of how this task fits in with our organizations or team’s goals, we can simplify. Simplify means that we can make our lives less cluttered and complicated by eliminating things that we just do out of habit, boredom (they call this busy work) or because “that is just the way we’ve always done this.” Author Elaine St. James in her chapter on “Work Less and Enjoy It More” cut back on her workday by 10 percent by scheduling her day to end an hour earlier. What she realized is so applicable to us. In her words, “I found that I had fallen into the trap of believing that I had to do everything today, or at the very least, by tomorrow, so I was constantly working under unnecessary pressure, which is no fun.” She learned how to prioritize calls, set up more realistic time-frames for project completion dates, and build time (for interruptions) in her schedule.
I hope that these 3 S’s have made you reflect upon your current work habits and I encourage you to STEP, STEP BACK, and SIMPLIFY your work and home life so as Elaine St. James says, “not to deny yourself the things you want, but to free yourself from the things you don’t want. “
The 2nd “S” in the 3 S’s of a “One thing at a time” mentality is Step Back. Step back means that we step back from the task that we are working on and see the task in light of larger team goals or business goals. We can discover that this task is best served by another staff member – or we may find that this task, though we enjoy it – will not significantly increase revenue or lead to new business. Step back also refers to stepping back from the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality and see if there is another way that we can get the same result by a more streamlined method. Is there a way that this function can be automated? With technology, the way we used to do things is drastically improved. Are we making effective use of our human resources? Is every person in our team adding value by the tasks they are doing? Perhaps this task is a perfect growth opportunity for a team member. I may need to invest some time on the front end, but what a gift for me and the team if this person could get this function accomplished AND expand their skill set at the same time? I say this is a win-win!
Step back from your task – look at the activity in light of your team’s larger mission or goals and think about other ways this task can be accomplished. Perhaps other people? Perhaps using technology? Or perhaps this task doesn’t need to be done!
My next Blog posting will focus on the 3rd S – Simplify!
How many times I forget this! When I feel bombarded with a myriad of things to do, courses of action I could take, or just a time crunch – I need to remind myself to: stop, step back, and simplify my life by focusing on one thing. Studies show that multi tasking is not effective and productive. Whether in the workplace or in our personal lives, these “3 S’s” can help you radically reduce your stress and increase your focus.
STOP- I was coaching a woman on her resume and she mentioned what she asks her daughter on a consistent basis: “Why are you doing this?” This question has stuck with me and I ask this same question to myself. When I do take the time to reflect on my answer, I usually find out that deep down below the surface, the answers to the question “Why are you doing that?’ revolve around the following: it feels good to check it off my list, I don’t actually feel like accomplishing on my goals, it takes too long, I can’t get started…”
Stop encourages us to ask the “why” question. We may find that the answer makes sense and we continue with that task. But more often than not, we may find ourselves switching directions and working on a higher priority item that will move our work lives, careers, home lives or relationship going forward.
Stay tuned for my next Blog Posting will focus on the 2nd S – “Step Back”