Better to Forgive than to Forget

Some recent research found that forgiveness affects perception of difficulty even during physical performance. Jay and I have been discussing how forgiveness might also affect the workplace.

The research found that just thinking about a time you didn’t forgive someone increased the perception of a hill’s steepness and decreased your ability to jump. At first glance neither seems related to any advantage for forgiveness in work or personal relationships. But let us suggest some possibilities.

Imagine your reaction if a team member, one more time, doesn’t follow through on an assignment or avoids thinking for themself and asks you a series of obvious and frustrating questions. You’ve been here before and your irritation level spikes. If you’re jumping ahead and thinking that we’re going to ask you to forgive the team member, well that may help, but actually the idea we’ve been thinking about may be even more important to you.

In the situation above, your response may not have been very measured and thus probably doesn’t decrease the odds you will do any better next time. Let’s face it, you blew it and now that you’ve calmed down you’re blaming yourself. Our question is, would it help to forgive yourself?

Many of our executive clients admonish themselves for “stupid” mistakes or misjudgments. They’ve read lots of advice to “put it behind you” or “let it go” but it’s possible that you might create better future solutions and stronger working relationships if you forgive rather than to try to forget. The perception of the magnitude of the effort it would take to train team members and build more effective management approaches—the hill you have to climb—might seem less daunting if you started with a bit more understanding i.e. forgiving yourself.

Once self-recrimination is tempered by or resolved with self-forgiveness, it seems reasonable to expect that we might free up our focus, creativity and energy. Tasks, including repairing our mentoring role with team members, may look less formidable.

Have you practiced a process that acknowledges, forgives and lets you get on with the task? This is where the mental game comes to the front. How quickly can you forgive your own missteps and begin to work on a different solution and repair the relationship you injured?

One hint is to focus forward with coaching prompts like :

“Well I won’t do that again!”
“That was a learning experience.”
“I lost my focus on that move.”
“What would I do differently next time?”

All of which lead to better future results than blaming and staying stuck regretting the experience.

Superior management skills and results come from practicing emotional control and getting more proficient at the basics of support and influence.

Incremental Changes Build to Success

Doing all or nothing often feels easier than making minor adjustments. An all or nothing approach takes fewer on-going decisions than a moderate approach. But the huge investment of time and energy can put enormous pressure on us, which may not be feasible given other responsibilities. Then the excuses come—“I’d do all if I only had more time, better employees, a bigger budget, but I don’t, so I’ll do nothing.”

Smaller steps are not as exciting and may not feel like they’re worth the effort. Try setting a goal that feels worth investing in, but only pushes your schedule and commitments a small amount—enough to notice an improvement but well within your realistic capabilities.

Here’s an example of a moderate approach to change the way you train your employees or regulate your work schedule. A client of ours was trying to prepare her team for a major restructuring that would require a number of current team members to begin working more independently. She came to us asking how she could get them to begin making the decisions that she currently did.

She understood that she needed to stop answering their questions and encourage them to find answers by themselves. But she was worried that they would think it strange and even hostile if she simply refused to answer their questions one day.

“How do I explain the change?”

“How often do you answer their questions now?” Jay asked.

“They really aren’t required to think about all the ramifications of most questions so it’s faster if I just answer them and they can get back to work.”

“You need to consider potential future responsibilities when you’re training and working with current line-level team members. Start ongoing, incremental training by challenging them to think in order to prepare them for future responsibilities. In addition, you will have a system to recognize potential leaders. Be transparent about your training intent and regularly ask for suggested answers, which you can then evaluate with the team member.  Now, in your current situation, be transparent about your intent to encourage them to quickly develop answers on their own, but don’t leave them frustrated with no answer.

How about telling them, ‘I want you to begin to come to me with both questions and your best answers. We will spend a minute talking about your thinking. Most of the time I will then expect you to go ahead and implement the answer you think works the best.  I know you will make some mistakes, but I trust you to push questions back to me, if you think it might cause serious harm to a client or the business. There may well be an increase in your stress at the beginning, but I’ll stand with you and we will take this a step at a time.’”

She tried it and reported that one team member was flying solo within three days—a competence she would have recognized, if she had been asking for answers all along. Another team member experienced a great deal of anxiety about shouldering the responsibility even though her answers were solid. Again, even though this person rose to the challenge, the transition would have gone more smoothly with a longer ramp-up time. The third team member was great at follow through but poor at strategically thinking through the ramifications of complex answers. An incremental approach over time would have also identified this fundamental weakness and not wasted precious transition time trying to train-up a poor management candidate.

Transitions and change don’t tend to happen in one fell swoop. The first step is most often a small one—a trial, an experiment, a taste of something different. Trying things in small steps also allows lots of room for innovation and for learning what is effective. Small steps leave room for corrective action.

Don’t expect to implement a change with maximum effect and minimum time investment by simply flying into it whole hog. We can help you plan how to integrate change into your team interactions with the least disruption to your work flow and the most benefit. Contact us for more information and a strategic planning session.

First Understand, Then Resolve

One of our colleagues sent us the following email upon receiving Jay’s new book Simple Steps to Change: Your Business, Your Life: “The segment below is so great it should be highlighted in bright lights. It’s so good. Should be required reading for everyone.” Here are a few excerpts along with our colleague’s favorite parts that are italicized in bold:

First Understand, Then Resolve

You need to plan for two or three conversation stages.

The goal for the initial stage is to become thoroughly familiar with each other’s point of view, thinking, and intuition. To gather this data, ask questions about anything you aren’t positive you understand and ask for confirmation that you’re correct on anything you think you do understand.

It is crucial for your understanding of the other person’s position that you help them feel safe, especially if they disagree with you or are sure you don’t understand them.

To create safety it’s better not to take an absolute stance as if you know best. You need to be equivocal in your statements and questions—meaning that you do not speak in absolutes, or as if you know something for sure.   

Listen Before You Leap

It is hard to have the patience to listen to someone when you’re pretty sure you already know what they are going to say. It can drive you up the wall if their point is obvious and they talk slowly or keep repeating each argument a number of times.

To check out that you still understand everything, ask the speaker if you heard them correctly. Repeating their main points will force you to listen. Then ask if you have missed anything.

If you want to enrich your bottom line, retain your best employees, and be on the leading edge of changes, listen patiently. Grit your teeth and pull your hair out, but listen!

Creating a Safe Space for a Hard Conversation

Here are some fundamentals for having a safe, non-confrontational conversation:

Use words and phrases that underline that you don’t know the Truth, that you only have some of the information. (This is almost always the case.) “My experience is…”, “From what I can see it looks like…”

Constantly ask questions that reflect your willingness to be corrected. “What am I missing?”, “Can you see something I’m missing?”

Do not try to convince someone that you’re right. You may be, but there is a good chance you’re only partially correct or not even quite that much.

Mostly listen and do very little talking until you understand what the other person is saying. It may help to repeat to yourself, “Listen carefully.” Or “Stop thinking of rebuttals and just listen for a while.”

Think about what assumptions you’re making and try to ask truly curious questions. “I’d like to understand better. Please share some of the information you’ve learned about why that is the case.”

Once you are fairly certain you understand each other, you need to move to the resolution conversation.

You can check out or order Simple Steps to Change: Your Business, Your Life on Kindle or softcover at

If you would like us to send you the complete section of First Understand, Then Resolve, please email us. And, if you’d like the chance to put these important skills into practice, we’re here to help you. Just call or email.

I Wonder Why

Asking questions communicates respect and can inspire teams to become more independent problem solvers. The following is a conversation Jay had with one of our brightest and funniest clients.

Jay: “When you think about increasing your team’s ability to think through business and professional complications, what approach are you using? How is it working for you?”

Client: “Why do I have to explain everything to them fifteen times? They have a procedure manual and I’ve told them what to do. They just can’t think for themselves.” Client starts with derision.

Jay wondered:  “What’s getting in their way of understanding what to do? Or is there just some reason they’re uncomfortable doing it?”

Client: “I pay them to do it. Why wouldn’t they just do it?” Client allows his frustration to take the lead.

Jay: “That is the question isn’t it. Why wouldn’t they?”

Client: “They’re stupid! They don’t care! They’re lazy!” He begins a well-rehearsed rant, but with a small smile of recognition breaking out on his face.

Jay: “All those are possible reasons, but is there some other reason you’re not seeing?”

Client: “Do you see something?” He challenges.

Jay: “I really don’t know what’s going on, so I would probably ask them if they know.”

Client: “Oh, you want me to ask one of those damn questions don’t you?” His statement is full of playful derision aimed at me.

Jay: “Only if you actually have something you’re really curious about.”

Client: With a grin, “I already know everything.”

Jay: “Then I must not be creating enough safety right now to allow you to admit what you don’t know and to consider other possibilities. I’m sorry,” Jay’s says with a grin back at him. “You have more experience with them, so I’m really asking, is there any possibility they can tell us what you might do differently?”

Client: In fake exasperation he challenges, “You’re such a pain. Why do I have to ask questions? Why can’t I just tell them what to do?”

Jay: “You already do that. How’s that working?”

Client: “Shut up!” He grins again.

Jay: “I’ve told you before to ask questions, but you don’t do it. Do you forget? Does your frustration push you to look for a quick solution or is there something else going on that I’m missing?”

Client: “Questions are your thing. I’m a teller.”

Jay: “I’m curious, how does telling encourage people to think? When I try it with you, you just resist.”

Client: “Your damn questions drive me crazy, but at least I have to think of an answer instead of just disagreeing.”

Jay: “So what do you think our next step should be?”

Client: “Alright! Alright! I’ll ask them some questions.”

Jay: “Any thoughts what you’ll ask them?”

From Inertia to Implementation-Getting Clients Unstuck

Until clients agree to implement a plan for their finances, estates, dental health or other professional services, we, the professionals, aren’t able to move ahead. You may have gathered the data, crunched the numbers and worked out a reasonable and perfectly logical course of action, but sometimes everything stops for no apparent reason.

The problem is simple but not easy. In many situations and for many clients there is an emotional or social need that isn’t met and that void drags the whole process to a standstill. The client may not realize they’re stuck, and you may not realize it either— but stuck they are and stuck they’re likely to remain unless you’re able to discover the unmet emotional need and address it if you can.

Many unsigned agreements and never-implemented plans are sitting in a folder waiting for someone to ask a good question or two, listen to an answer that may seem irrational and stay with the client until that person is ready to hear more data. Explaining the logic (again), demonstrating what we know and how brilliant we are “should” work, but it doesn’t. When clients won’t move, we need to find another path. Ideally, we create the situation where the client asks for more information.

I was asked by a financial advisor to try to unstick a client. As is often the case, both the client and the professional are stuck. In our first meeting, Peter, the wealth advisor who was referred by a client of mine, explained his frustration with his client Jack.

“Jack inherited $5 million of a poorly performing stock, which he won’t diversify or sell. This position is a major part of his portfolio.  He is a bright, practical man. He’s married, has no children. He hopes to retire in 5-7 years. Holding onto this stock could keep him from a successful retirement and he won’t listen to reason.”
I asked Peter what he knew about this inheritance.

“Jack’s grandfather left it to him.”

When I asked for details, Peter admitted he hadn’t asked for any more than that. Knowing how complex family ties can be, my emotional radar pinged me.

It takes time to develop a relationship where a person trusts that you really care—we all know when someone is trying but not really interested. This is one of those times when only the real deal will work. The initial step is to ask sincere, curious questions and then listen to the answers. This step takes time, but it is an investment that pays dividends when clients decide to trust you and begin to implement.

Peter asked that I coach him before the meeting, and attend in case he needed my assistance. My initial suggestions were for us to create some good questions he needed to ask and that he show he heard the answers by rephrasing them back to the client or reflecting on the emotions involved.

At the client meeting Peter introduced me matter-of-factly as their financial behavior and transition specialist and after a brief catch-up, he followed our plan and asked about the stock.  “Can you tell me more about the stock you inherited from your grandfather?”   And then he quietly waited for Jack’s answer.

After a bit of reflective listening and a couple of focused questions, Peter learned that Jack’s grandfather told him not to sell the stock until he had children.  Jack had pledged to his grandfather that he would abide and didn’t want to go back on his promise even though he and his wife had no children and wouldn’t have any.

Peter didn’t know what else to say or ask, so I spoke to Jack and reflected on the emotional bind.

“What a dilemma for you:   If you sell the stock, you break your word to your grandfather, but it makes no sense to hold on to it. Quite a bind.”

 Jack said, “I do feel trapped but honoring my vow is paramount.”

I asked what he thought his grandfather might say now, given the stock company’s accounting scandals and Jack’s age.

“Times are different now. I don’t know what he’d say.”   I sensed his increased receptivity and asked if his grandfather would think it advisable to hold the stock forever, given that he and his wife Marie were not going to have children.”

“After looking at this from another point of view, I can hear my grandfather telling us to think for ourselves and not ‘be sheep’.” He added that, in fact, his grandfather might be upset if he didn’t diversify.  “But I did give him my word,” Jack said, still ambivalent about how to proceed.

“So he might want you to diversify, but it’s still hard to change the agreement.”

When I saw signs that Jack looked relaxed, I asked, “Would it be helpful to have Peter take another look at the numbers?”   He agreed and after just a few minutes, Jack decided to sell a fifth of the stock.

After underscoring Jack’s agreement to diversify $1,000,000 of his stock, Peter was eager to work out the details, but I could see that Jack needed time to come to terms with his decision. To Peter’s initial dismay, I asked if Jack wanted to continue today or schedule another appointment.

Emotions play a positive role in all decision making and we ignore them at our peril. We need to invite client history and feelings into our calculations and assist them to find a path toward implementing plans that are in their best interest. Ask questions, listen carefully and trust that your clients will know when you are really interested. Listening shows your interest in them. Questions show your interest in them. Present a plan that reflects all their needs—financial and emotional.

And, of course, we are here to help when you’re stuck. Contact us to strategize more effective questions you or your team members can ask. We can also help you develop other communication strategies that encourage positive momentum. Simple tweaks can make a real difference.

Change with Almost No Effort

Self-discipline is an important component of change, but in certain circumstances you can alter your behavior without using much of your precious discipline-energy at all.

You can institute changes, often with very little effort or even awareness, if you simply adjust the way you arrange your organization system, office, or car.

Change the Physical Environment

Try to physically position things so that the habit you’re trying to develop has no roadblocks. When you feel an urge, you want to be able to follow through with next to no effort, no thought, no decisions, and very little chance of a detour.

Goal: Keep a to-do list

Physical Change: Keep your to-do list within the “easy-reach” zone on top of your desk, in your pocket, or on your phone. Have the most current items visible so you don’t have pages to turn or screens to click through. If you plan to use paper, always keep a pen where you never have to reach for it. If your list is electronic, keep it open and waiting, certainly no more than one click away.

Goal: Exercise regularly

Physical Change: Keep your workout clothes out and visible, your socks with your shoes, the shirt with the shorts or pants. If the weather is getting cool, keep your shell with the rest of your clothes.

Goal: Pay bills on time

Physical Change: Put bills to be paid in a prominent place with a large label where it will be visible to you from a regular route you use in your office or home. The best place is often right next to the place you’re going to pay them.

Goal: Start online work you’ve resisted doing

Physical Change: Put a prominent link on your computer or smartphone for any online task you might resist doing.

Use the opposite approach when you’re trying to break a current habit.

Goal: Change your snack habits

Physical Change:  Don’t place snack items where they’re visible or reachable (think obvious, handy, convenient, efficient); you’re more likely to eat more. Place them at the back of the office fridge, in a closed cabinet or drawer that isn’t in reach of your desk.

Goal: Ignore email when concentrating

Physical Change: Turn off email reminders. This is equivalent to making them less visible.

Goal: Don’t get caught by the Internet

Physical Change: Delete any “favorites,” desktop links, or other saved links that lead to entertaining or distracting web addresses. The little extra effort of having to type the address will slow down your impulse to visit the site.

Jay is an expert at helping clients come up with simple ideas and small useable steps to implement the changes they want to make. If there are things you’d like to change in your work or personal life, call or email us.

Questions Can Lead You Out of the Fog

A business loss or misstep can either drag down team morale or lead to creative new approaches. The difference is often in how you manage the initial reaction to loss. Do you start guessing at the possible reasons and end up preferring the ones that find fault in either the potential client or your team?

Research shows that there is a better chance of improving your performance if you truly understand what failed and then quickly transition to focusing on what you will do differently next time. But in the emotional disappointment of the loss it can be hard to formulate questions that dig into the truth and then spur creative thinking.

Here are a few of the questions we’ve helped our clients fashion. Notice that each tries to encourage a look past obvious conclusions. Any one might lead you to a new insight or perhaps asking a few that are fractionally different from each other will uncover a nuance that is important.

  • What caused this client to not choose us? Or what did the other company offer that we didn’t? Don’t accept the first few reasons until you’ve looked at a range of possible explanations.
  • What did we allow to slide that might have made a difference? Where did we show a lack of commitment? What might have happened that we simply gave less than was required?
  • What would we do differently in a similar situation next time? Start from the positive future moves you might try.
  • Did we identify the potential risk points ahead of time? Did we fool ourselves about a crucial aspect?
  • What can we learn from our tendency to spend time affixing blame to the potential client or ourselves? Blame is different from discovering what went wrong and quickly switching to how to improve.

The wording of the questions is important and the attitude with which you ask them is crucial. Any blame or hostility will anchor the conversation in the past. You want to focus on how to move forward. You want to encourage both yourself and your team. False praise or phony affirmations just make things worse. The key is to keep people’s attention on the changes, the improvements.

This postmortem, aka After Action Review, should be short and end with the expectation that people are able to move forward, to be ready and eager for another shot at the next opportunity. But even here be thoughtful—it’s better to ask the team if they’re ready than to tell them.

If you want greater performance, higher morale and more creative approaches, we can help. Whether you’re looking to craft the “right” questions, think through how to help your team learn from their mistakes, or gain additional insights, give us a call or email.

Oops. Maybe we should start that again! Are you ready to make a change? Is there a way we can be of help as you look ahead?

Rating of Perceived Effort

Change is simple, but not easy. But approach change correctly and “not easy” can become “easier than it once was” and eventually even “normal effort.”

Jay had fun this winter working with a professional bicycling coach. His goal is to be able to ride hundred mile events (Centuries) with more speed and less fatigue. His coach, a former pro cyclist—Sara Bresnick of Pedal Power Coaching—regularly assigns workouts and Jay sends her digital data from his riding sessions and rates his perceptions of the effort required to do aerobic or strength intervals. There is a standard RPE (Rating of Perceived Effort) scale that he compares his efforts to—from #1=“I’m watching TV and eating bonbons” to # 9=“I’m probably going to die”. Number ten on this scale is “I’m dead.”

Assigning a specific rating number to your effort can help clarify just how hard you are working. It moves the conversation from “This is too much work!” to “This is this much work.” If you want to change your capacity to put out effort, you need to invest in practice that stretches you and challenges your current abilities. This is true whether you want physical endurance, the persistence to keep trying a new behavior or the consistent patience needed to influence other peoples’ habits.

Strength and endurance are built through challenges that ask a bit more than your body, emotions or mind is currently accustomed to. Too big a challenge causes a level of exhaustion that requires a long recovery. In the case of emotional or willpower exhaustion this dramatically increases the likelihood that you will fail to manage your behavior. For example, if you’re trying to remember to ask more questions instead of just giving advice or information, you’re more likely to go back on autopilot and forget to focus on your curiosity. Or if you’re trying to control your irritation, you may blow it.

Too little challenge and the increase in your ability will be so slow that you are more likely to give up or forget to keep trying. In the end, your capacity remains the same. The trick is to challenge yourself at a level of moderate effort—“I’m mostly comfortable, but this is taking some effort and careful thought.” This is the equivalent of physical exercise where you are still able to talk, but are aware you’re breathing harder.

It may help you get a feeling for where you are and what you’re willing to do to move forward, if you compare yourself to a perceived effort rating scale.

Here’s a possibility:

1. I’m cruising along as usual.
2. I’m staying well within my comfort range.
3. I’m comfortable, but I’m pushing myself a bit.
4. I’m mostly comfortable, but this is taking some effort and careful thought. (This is an effort that builds capacity.)
5. I’m outside my comfort zone and feeling some stress. (This begins interval training.)
6. I’m outside my competency zone and feeling moderate stress.
7. I’m tired from all the thinking, planning and remembering it’s taking to stay on track.
8. I’m tired and need a break real soon.
9. I’m working so hard at this that I can’t think about anything else. I feel like I’m going to lose it.
10. I can’t think and feel only confused and frustrated.

Last year Jay rode his bicycle club’s Spring Century for the second year in a row. He was dreading a hill that occurred around mile 85, after almost six hours of riding. The first year he had struggled up this hill in his lowest gear and occasionally wondered if he was going to have to stop. Last year he kept waiting and waiting for the hill to appear. When he was at mile 90 plus he realized that he had gone over the hill and not even recognized it. With practice, a 9 had become a 6.

How much energy are you really investing in your own or your company’s progress? How much are you willing to invest to get the outcomes you want?

We can help you identify changes you are ready to tackle—for you, your business or your team. Then we can design specific steps that will increase your capability and the perception of effort required to reach your goals. Coaching makes it easier than going it alone. Give us a call to discuss next steps.

Efficiency is Sometimes Inefficient

When you’re looking at your project or task list it is easy to get caught in trying to minimize your investment of time, effort or money.

But be beware, the time you spend figuring and planning is sometimes a substitute for starting a straightforward task.

Some situations to consider:

  • How long do you spend looking for a bargain on an item that is a fairly minor expenditure?
  • Is your task list system or software taking a long time to become useful?
  • Do you pursue 98% flawlessness when 85% is great for this draft or proposal?
  • Do you ask your team to follow a specific guideline when a bit of flexibility might generate more initiative along with the minor disorganization?
  • Do you wait to pay bills until they’re all in, when it might be more pleasant to break up your days by paying a few at a time?
  • Do you always pay off the highest interest loan or credit card even when paying off a small balance on a low interest card might feel good and clear additional space in your attention?

When I was young my parents gently chastised me for trying to carry too many grocery bags at once or too many dishes to the sink. They called this a “lazy-man’s load.” They pointed out that to save a return trip I was risking dropping my whole load—short-term it felt efficient, but the actual outcome was potentially very wasteful.

It may be a good to ask yourself:

  • “Is doing this task this way actually efficient, or am I putting roadblocks in my way of getting things done?”
  • “Am I paying attention to the fact that I may be wasting a lot of time strategizing something that just needs doing?”
  • “Would just starting probably get me done a bit faster?”

If you’re ready to point out how much can be gained by planning, considering and minimizing your investment, we want to agree with you. It certainly isn’t prudent or judicious to just bust ahead. But be very careful if you often have tasks that languish and lists that grow faster than you can prune them. It may make sense to try a few experiments with a “just do some little things” approach.

And stay alert to your feelings. Task lists and projects are not done with organization alone. They often require momentum, enthusiasm and creativity and those can be generated by getting some small things out of the way, even if you’re a bit inefficient while doing them.

If you like practical, straightforward ideas that can increase effectiveness for you and your team, give us a call. We listen and help you find the ideas that get things moving in new directions. We are experienced experts on the people side of business. That means you, your clients and patients, and your team.

Never Enough Time

If you’re in the middle of growing your business or your career, you likely have more work than you have time for, and just putting your head down and doing isn’t a sustainable situation. Yet it can become a chronic and ultimately troubling one. What’s to be done?

When we have too little work, it is an emergency. Too little work means a significant push is called for — advertising, networking, PR, media. Not enough work offers clear pathways to solutions; although some are more and some less effective-find work, don’t stop until you’ve sufficiently filled the calendar. Every startup initially faces this, and many people get so comfortable dealing with this pressure that they don’t see the tide turning and beginning to overfill their work blocks. They just keep saying yes.

There are also those blissful moments when we have just the right amount of work, Goldilocks moments–our calendars aren’t too cold or too hot. We are making reasonable revenue but we can get home for supper on time. The problem is that “just enough” will often quickly fall back into not enough. Your pipeline has air bubbles in it; expansion, R&D or payroll will soon demand more resources, even though there isn’t current capacity for it. If you have just enough and you’re in growth stage, productivity figures flatten out. If you’re slipping from a previous glut of work, productivity figures fall.

And then there is the experience that most of us are familiar with– you have more than you can reasonably do, particularly if you value balance in your life. Your best employees are swamped, your days are stretched, and the satisfaction of completing a job is replaced with the stress of seeing your list of responsibilities grow while you’re trying desperately to finish up the last project. Emails alone can feel like a floodtide that has no end until it drowns you.

Here are three things to try that can change how you think about, feel about and handle too much work:

1. Organize it. Until you have a complete list of all your projects and tasks, it is hard to know whether you’re looking at      inadequate time and project management, inappropriate delegation of tasks (to you or others), poor discrimination on your part when accepting responsibility, or a true need to build additional capacity in your team. And without a complete list you are in a weak position to lobby senior leaders to either prune your responsibilities or add positions.

2. Reframe it. Stop catastrophizing the situation with labels that mischaracterize an overabundance of work as “Too much!”, “Drowning!”, “Swamped!” or “Buried!” Your actions, emotions and thinking will tend to follow the views you espouse, so talk to yourself and others using specific, realistic descriptions and solution based statements–“I need to get control of my workflow.” The reality is that you do have an abundance of possible tasks, and they put pressure on you to better manage your work flow and selection.

3. Choose Wisely. Whether you choose your projects or they’re chosen for you the key is to choose wisely.

If someone is pressuring you to take on additional tasks, when you can’t get done what you have on your list and you’re sure that you are already working pretty efficiently, involve the delegator in helping to choose your priorities. Be certain that you both agree on what can get done during your work time.

If you choose your own clients or projects, slow down and choose who and what are going to be the most important in the long run. This is a time to not let urgency-today’s interests or crisis–take precedence over your long-term goals. Having too many projects allows you to raise the quality of your clients, take on the most productive or lucrative ventures and prune out low-return undertakings.

We simply have the time we have. We can invest it in complaining and ineffective processes or we can focus on strategic choices and thoughtful organization. Be clear about what responsibilities you’ve accepted; think and talk about them in realistic, positive terms; and make a commitment to cautiously choose what you add to your plate.

We can help you learn the skills necessary to manage your workflow and to relentlessly implement those skills when the pressure is on.