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Monday, March 08, 2010

Four Steps to Overcome Minimalist Behavior



This morning in my "quiet time" I came across a comment that hit my life right now to the quick.  It is from Beth Moore in her Patriarchs study.  She says on p 88:

"I'm concerned that the maximum-load mentality of our culture could potentially turn us into minimalists.  We're growing too exhausted to go the extra mile.  Sometimes we do only what we must to get by on a project because we have 15 other projects nipping at our own heels. We're pushed too far and too fast to go the extra distance excellence demands."

Now, if that doesn't explain a lot.  I came across a powerful quote from Peter Drucker, the management guru that has resonated with many I've shared it with:

"If you're going to start doing something new, you have to stop doing something old."

So, as I know many who are in "downsized situations" - the people are downsized but no one downsizes the responsibilities -- no one cuts out "the old."  No one strategically analyzes what was being done to determine what needs to continue and what needs to be cut.  Because, I'll tell you what often is left -  the useless, needless paperwork and "fluff" of "stuff" that takes up time but doesn't really accomplish anything.

Managers, if you've downsized a department, have you taken an honest look at what responsibilities need to be CUT! I mean, come on!  The people who are often left behind in a downsize, in addition to having survivors guilt often feel taken advantage of because somehow they are expected to do the work of multiple people.

And so, that leaves us where I am today.... looking at a list of 50 things that need to be done by tomorrow.  I have to ask myself -- are these items realistic? Are they important? 

So, what do we do about these issues? How do we pull back on the maximum load that causes us to put forth the minimum effort on one of those things.  First of all, there is one thing I wish I'd hear myself on as I write:


1) You always have a choice.
We all have choices.  Put your finger in a glass of water - take it out -- that is you -- organizations can go on without us - none of us are dispensable.  People have been dying since time began and the world continued to turn.  However, the ones who suffer most if they lose you are your FAMILY.  We always have choices.

I was twenty five and a general manager of a local cell phone company and pregnant with our second child. I was leaving the house at 5:30 am and coming home at 9 or 10 pm and my 9 month old child would stay up all night!  We needed the money - did I have a choice?

Of course, for many these things seem simple in retrospect. {They may also be made a little more simple (NOT!) by my faith in that God promises He'll provide -- not that we'll be successful, but that if He guides us, He'll provide. }  Bottom line is I quit my job to be a homemaker and haven't regretted it for a moment.  Sure, the pecan grove went under water and we lost much of our savings - but I'm still here, still kicking and my children - the most important thing - came through very well.

The point is here - YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE.  Even if you are paralyzed and stuck in bed all day -you can still choose your attitude.  You have choices you may not realize BUT YOU HAVE THEM. I have them.

And right now - I'm asking myself - what choices do I have?  First of all I can choose to work through this and do my best and not stress about it.  CHOICE.

2) You are the only You
I know, I just told you you're dispensable.  Sure, this may seem contradictory, however, that being said - you are the only YOU.  There are people in your life who you "belong to" that will feel the loss if you're not there.  There are people who need memories of you loving and even sacrificing for them.

This is why it is totally worth it to me to cook dinner for my family most nights of the week.  It is totally worth it to plan fun events and vacations and help my children.  Even, hold their hair and put  a washcloth on their head when they are sick.  Maybe through these things they will understand that I LOVE THEM.  I LOVE THEM. 

No one at Verizon remembers that I was even the General Manager there fifteen years a go.  My husband remembers that I stuck by him when we had problems on the farm.  We've been married over sixteen years now and I'm so crazy in love with my man! He is wonderful - I call him my boyfriend. I'm so lucky I married my boyfriend and I still think of him that way.  OK, so some of you feel nauseous at my expressions here or for you, things just didn't turn out like you planned and I dearly hope you'll understand the spirit with which this is intended.

Incubator or Siphon?
The point is that the time I spend with my family is time invested in a savings account that pays future dividends. I have to examine all of these things - all of these items on my list to determine which things are siphons and which things are incubators.  Is the thing I'm spending time on just going to siphon more and more time with no pay back for anyone anywhere -- or is the thing I'm spending time on going to incubate growth and opportunity for others, my family, or possibly me?  Incubator or siphon?


3) One grain at a time
One grain at a time can pass through the hourglass of our lives.  When we try to cram more than one through there, we end up with a bottleneck - a backlog - inefficiency or even a breakdown of ourselves.

As I looked over my list this morning and felt myself getting more and more upset as I realized that I was about to teach for two straight hours (SAT prep - yuck but important) I had to literally back up and give myself one of those "Kipper talks" as I call them. (OK, it is a play on 'Win one for the Gipper' but my husband's name is Kip and so, when he's not there to "straighten me out" - I do it for him.  It sort of reminds me of that scene from "Liar Liar" where Jim Carrey is beating himself up in the bathroom so he can get off a case and is interrupted and tells the person, "I'm kicking my own tail." :-))

So, I told myself,

"Vicki, that is enough -- one grain at a time.  Stressing is going to give you more gray and wear you out - there is only one you - just relax and take it one moment at a time.  Lord, help me focus on what is most important and do it."

Pick 10
So, I took my green highlighter and looked at the 75 or 100 things I had written down and highlighted the ten most important things and those are what I did today. Interesting how some of the other things "did themselves" somehow. Others just became items I didn't need to do.


Focus
Multitasking is a FALLACY.  So, I picked my most important things and gave them my 100% attention for the time span I had to do them. I gave my 100% and my best to be excellent. I completed everything I needed to do for those items and crossed them off with pride. Excellence - maximum - my best.

If I'm teaching my children and students to do their best, I should model it.  To be my best I have to focus.

4) Unpack Your Bags, Refuse to Go ON a Guilt Trip
Mom always says that

"If you go on a guilt trip, you have to pack your own bags."

I'm not going to pack them. I'm going to do my best, focus, do the most important things first and move ahead.  I'm not going to pack my bags. I'm not going to close my eyes tonight and start packing in all the items I didn't do.  I'm not.

Don't pack your bags. Don't go there. Don't go on the guilt trip!  (This is the power of having quiet time each morning for me - it frees my mind and clears my head for the day ahead as well as centering me upon my Best Friend.)

I DON'T WANT TO BE A MINIMALIST
I want to be efficient. I want to not waste effort. Don't get me wrong.  However, every day I see students "just getting by."

Life is too short to "just get by." I want to give my best, do my best.  Be my best.  But perfection is an illusion.

Just thinking out loud with you, my friend.

I hope you will not take these words and use them as fodder to toss a cannonball of criticism towards me, however, if you do, go ahead.  Because out there is someone else who is feeling overloaded just like I am and might need to be in on the self-talk that I give myself to get through the times where I am feeling as scattered as a sneeze in a whirlwind.

To those of you who need these words: 
1) You Always Have a Choice (even if it is just your attitude)
2) You Are the Only You (pick things that incubate and give payback and don't just siphon off your life)
3) One Grain at a Time (put it in priority order, take it one at a time, Focus.
4) Refuse To Pack Reasons into Your Mind - Don't Go on the Guilt Trip

Good luck my friends - and remember - to those of you who read this blog and are educators - your calling is so very noble - keep the faith!
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