Do you remember the story of Hercules battling the Hydra? Every time Hercules cut off one of Hydra’s heads, three more appeared in its place. The harder and faster he fought, the more easily the monster overpowered him. Until he got smart.
Here’s today’s version. You delete one email; three more appear. You turn in a terrific project on time and you’re given another, tougher one, with a tighter deadline. You make one decision, three more stick their heads up. You’re running fast, but in danger of being overtaken by monsters sucking up all your time.
So what to do? You start earlier, finish later and take work home on the weekends. When you work harder and faster, burnout is the likely result. And you still fall behind and the monsters are catching up, because there are always more things to do than time to do them.
The head-slicing thing didn’t work with Hydra and it doesn’t work with time-sucking monsters, either. You have to get smart (and you know from last week’s chat that multi-tasking is not smart). Here’s what is smart:
First, tackle the recurring and predictable problems and find a way to prevent them from occurring in the first place. For instance, when you’re always being interrupted to answer the same questions, put a system in place to answer them automatically, or answer them before they’re asked, or show people where they can find the answer themselves. In other words, don’t keep chopping a head off, cauterise it (which is what Hercules did when he cut off one of Hydra’s heads, ’till finally, the headless Hydra was no more).
Then, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself how you contribute to your time-sucking monsters. Are some of them there because you keep putting things off until they become a crisis? Are others there because you don’t do them well enough in the first place, so they come back to you? Maybe some are there because you weren’t clear about what you really wanted to achieve or what was needed? You know how to deal with those monsters, don’t you.
To finally banish the remaining time-sucking monsters, stay on top of your important tasks and do them right first time, before they become urgent. No more time-sucking monsters.