Get the Little Things off Your “To Do” List
So a wheel broke off one of our office chairs – rendering the chair an occupational health and safety hazard. The result being that a perfectly good chair was taking up valuable space in our closet, with a “Broken! Do not sit on” message written in Sharpie on a piece of paper, placed askew on the seat.
The chair sat in our closet for close to a year, collecting dust. An unproductive asset.
It became a headache: a perfectly excellent office chair, but now we had to deal with it. So I personally went to Staples and mercifully, was able to buy what are called “casters” – which as it turns out is the name of office chair wheels. Of course you can’t just buy one – they come in packages of two or four, but I digress…
The acquisition of the caster was progress – as the appropriate infrastructure had now been procured.
I got back to our office, and tried to put a freshly-acquired caster on the chair leg.
Now, fortunately for my children and our household income, I have skills other than mechanical dexterity. Because despite trying several angles (which was really just the right side up and upside down positions of the metal part), I could not get the new caster to ‘click’. Which was emotionally painful – as it now seemed we were $30 out-of-pocket, and no further ahead.
Then a Miracle Occurred: We had People in the Office, and I Asked for Help
Today’s society is such that asking for help for mundane tasks is frowned upon – lest people feel their roles diminished. So it was with some degree of courage that when we had a full team meeting recently, including our summer interns, I asked if anyone might want to take a crack at fixing the chair.
After a brief moment’s pause, one of our freshly-minted summer interns, Frances Walker, raised her hand and said “Let me see what I can do…”
Fifteen minutes later the ‘chair problem’ was solved.
I’ve never been on morphine. But I sense that the experience of universal calm I am told it delivers was akin to my emotional state in that moment. Because when this relatively small, unimportant thing got completed, I had this huge sense that a great weight had been lifted from my back. The sense of relief related to the fixing of the chair was tremendously disproportional to the relatively insignificant problem that it was.
The “Let Me Take Care of That” Person is a Hero.
If you have people who just solve things – regardless of their job description – appreciate their value to your organization. In fact, at MacPhie we really frown upon job descriptions for that very reason. In an age when everyone is busy, anyone who sticks up their hand and just gets stuff done (especially when it just requires fresh thinking and problem solving) is a hero. Positive attitude + willingness to try = win.
So while I could blog today about Canada’s competitiveness and productivity deficit, the lack of financial literacy among today’s youth, or other macroeconomic issues equally urgent, I want to talk about the ‘pile of crap’.
Managing the “Pile of Crap”
Everyone’s got a ‘pile of crap’ in their lives. And to be clear: these aren’t major, strategic, truly important problems, They are minor, relatively insignificant, and in the grand scheme of things – irrelevant. Small things on your to do list that add up. And like with an actual pile, as it gets bigger it gets heavier – even if the things in and of themselves are relatively small.
So when it comes to things in our pile of crap, we eventually have to deal with them. Here’s how.
First make a ‘pile of crap’ list. This is different from a priority list of an outline of the things that are most important – it is a list dedicated exclusively to your Pile of Crap. Not important stuff.
This is where the ‘Three D’s” come in:
- Delegate. Hire a contractor. Ask the kid across the street. See if one of your colleagues can help.
- Deadline. If you don’t delegate, then you’ll have to determine when the crap item will be addressed. And if the answer is 18 months from now, that’s fine. Point is you can now relax knowing when it will get addressed deliberately.
- Do. Get the thing done yourself – by the time you said you would.
Don’t let your pile of crap drag you, or those around you, away from things that matter. Manage it so you can focus in what matters.
A strong executive team works at continuous improvement.
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