Too Much To-do About Everything

On the flip side of organizations that aren’t digging deep enough are organizations that create massive amounts of work for themselves unnecessarily. This might be overanalyzing minute decisions or situations where there’s simply no logical way to create predictability (which can lead to unproductive delays), bringing everyone together for every single decision in an effort to be inclusive (which can lead to wasted time and frustration), and rehashing conversation and directional discussions without additional clarification or adding new value to the connection (which always amps the annoyance factor). 

Sometimes, we really do create too much to-do about everything, and it’s creating an undesirable culture in our organizations. 

So how do we find that balance? What can we lean on to make sure we’re living our values in a way that’s real for what we want to achieve but in a way that is both meaningful and reasonable for what our work requires? 

I like to leverage these 7 core practices to keep me out of the tendency to make too much of every little thing that could possibly be ending up on the to-do list or clamoring for my attention: 

  1. Asking what the “highest value, most strategic” use of my time, energy, or attention is within the context of the totality of options and items on the list.
  2. Asking that again but in the context of the use of time, energy, or attention of other team members.
  3. Before bringing groups together, clearly identifying the value of having all of those people present, articulating my goals for doing so, and outlining the deliverables of the interaction so I can craft an approach specifically targeted to make sure that’s what happens as a result of the time together.
  4. Assessing the task or situation and estimating the amount of time it would take me to address it in the manner I was considering. Often this is enough to help me re-prioritize accordingly because I either clearly see the need for the time investment, or the time commitment obviously leads me in one way or another.
  5. Making myself wait 10 minutes before deciding what to do with it! I’m an emotional responder when it comes to to-do lists, and I like to be productive, so a 10-minute wait time is usually enough for me to stifle that default initial urge and make sure I’m acting because I truly want to. (Plus I can get something else done in that 10 minutes!)
  6. Leveraging someone else to help me think more clearly – this often looks like, “Hey, I’ve got this thing I’m considering doing, can I talk it through with you real quick so I can see how it looks up against all these other things?” Almost every single time I actually verbalize my thought process rather than just relying on my internal thought process to make a decision, I come out with a better action plan that’s way more thought-through, intentional, and functional.
  7. Gaining an understanding of how meaningful this project will be. This one’s a little funky, but assessing the request/task/situation on a scale of “How happy will I be with myself that I addressed this today/this week/this month, etc.?” What I’m going for here is a gut-check about how meaningful it would be to me or to the team that we spent time on this. Especially if it’s going to disrupt other work, I need to make really sure it’s worth it. If it rises to the level where my internal compass is like, “Oh heck yes, you’re going to be thrilled that you did this!”, then party on! If, however, it doesn’t quite get to that level and is hovering more around “meh,” then it’s time to re-think it. 

You’ve already got enough on your plate. Make sure that whatever else you’re adding is really worth it. 

- Nicole



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