As I walked down the hallway I heard, “hey I need some help. Would you just do this for me?” The tone in the voice made it impossible to say no because of course it was so simple. Can you hear it?
Have you ever really stopped and looked at what you do and why? It may seem like a worthless exercise and a hard one to get on your “to do” list. I get it, but I want you to STOP and do it NOW. I did and the results were amazing.
My list started with the usual things. I was at the cabin. It was quiet. No neighbors, no communications, no media, no people, just me and my thoughts. No reason to be interrupted. As I continued to write things down I was amazed. Then I looked at my calendar for the past month and just took an inventory that identified what I did, why I did it, who I did it for and how often. It wasn’t until I got the list together that I saw the trend. It was so obvious. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I think the answer is “because I was too busy.” Funny how our crazy schedules hid things from us. It took the quietness of the cabin to see it clearly.
What became obvious was the number of things that I did because someone asked me to help “just this one time”. It starts as an innocent request from your kids, spouse, friend, co-worker or boss. And it is always asked in a way that makes it seem simple and hard to say no. The problem is, it goes on your list for that reason and never leaves because you made it part of your routine. It seems easier that way or you know they like the help and always express their gratitude which makes you feel good. However, the result ultimately impacts you and your ability to do your best work. This is a big deal. We all only get 24 hours a day, no matter our position, or the amount of money we make. It is up to us to optimize our time to accomplish our goals and do our best work. That’s why taking an inventory is so important. It will allow you to be more intentional in how you spend your day. It will affect your overall impact, level of satisfaction and overall quality of relationships.
Now, I am not saying don’t help people when they “just” need it this one time. What I am saying is help but do it with the expectation that this “one time” means you give it back. Establish boundaries and the discipline to manage the “just this one time” help projects. The first time I did this inventory I was amazed at the list and how it was impacting me. I was also very intentional in going back to the person and “giving it back” so they knew what to expect. It was easier than I thought and oh so energizing for me. Now that I understand how it happens, it is also easier to make it a habit.