September 03, 2008

Regimen or Compulsion? Order or Overboard? In his monthly newsletter, Balancing Act®, Alan Weiss writes succinctly about being organized and going overboard with order. Here is his article in full: Regimen or compulsion? My bias is that we need to organize parts of our lives that are important. This varies in its significance. I suppose if someone knows where to find something quickly, that's the point, no matter how bad the clutter may appear to an observer But I don't want my surgeon asking no one in particular, "Where did I leave that clamp?" Creating a regimen around an exercise schedule, or work responsibilities, or family obligations, or civic and social commitments, enables most people to be more efficient and, ironically enough, more flexible. (In common parlance: multi-tasking.) But an excessive regimen can become a compulsion, which is the height of inflexibility and at the margins of a behavioral disorder. (OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, refers to an obsession with an idea and a compulsion about behavior.) I've met people who have decided to remove all fats from their foods, to the extent that they concoct strange replacements, the pursuit consumes their social lives, and, to me, they look far more unhealthy than if they allowed a moderate amount of fat to enter their systems. Exercise is a great regimen, for mind and body, but the people I see running in rain, snow, fog, and other hazardous conditions I think are more compulsive than smart. Wouldn't a treadmill suffice for that day? And would your health be drastically affected if you skipped one day? I work out three times a week with a personal trainer, but I don't beat myself up when I can't get there because of other commitments. Nor do I compensate for it through some forced exercise. (The trainer beats me up enough for the both of us.) We've seen people whose desks are beyond orderly—the pencils must be the same length and aligned perfectly, the phone pad squared against the phone. We recognize that as "over the edge." But there are also subtle routines which also form compulsions which we too easily overlook. An orderly life is sensible, but a compulsive one is not. Even "order" makes little sense when you sacrifice value for the sake of order. I've seen restrictions placed on guests, pets, and even children to the extent that I wonder why the guests, pets, and children were included to...
Schedule Your Priorities The way to make sure that you do the things that are really impactful is to put them on your calendar. Steven Covey is the famous author of The 7 Habits Series of books and he makes this point succinctly in the quote above. When you are scheduled for the things that are really important and let the less important thing take only the 'extra' time you have, you are on the road to feeling in control, productive, and being successful. The opposite of scheduling your priorities is letting other people take your time, reacting to the emergency of the moment (found when you checked your email no doubt), and losing site of what you're responsible to do. This usually is accompanied by stress, overwhelm, and working overtime. Kim has an appointment with her assistant every morning at 8:15am without fail. They look at the day ahead and coordinate the things that should be done and must be done. They look at the days ahead and begin preparation for meetings and projects due soon. By scheduling this appointment every morning Kim & Allen (the assistant) stay on top of everything and are usually calm, cool, and collected. Back in my days at Hewlett-Packard a department head, Tom, would take time at the end of the week to write a quick list of accomplishments. He had his List Making on his calendar and rarely missed those 15 minutes with his career planning. That list allowed him to sell himself into a number of positions that advanced his career quickly. His priority to keep his career front & center by making an appointment with himself paid big dividends. What are you allowing to take over your schedule? What would you schedule and protect to reach the ends your have as goals?

Susan Sabo

I am a tool-loving productivity specialist who gets things done so I can travel the world, bicycle our country, spoil my friends & colleagues, and show you how to do the same.

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