Calmness in the midst of chaos
“In the midst of chaos, maintain calmness inside of you” – not sure who said this exactly but its something that has stuck itself in my mind. When things at work are chaotic, when you don’t know where it all begins or ends, when the crisis are never ending, what do you do? How do you start to even make sense of the whole thing?
The Chinese word “crisis” is made up of two characters. The first one is danger; the second is opportunity. Two words at the opposite end of the spectrum or the same depending on your own perspective and it does all boils down to perspective. You could look at the crisis as a red flag showing where the process is breaking down, the bottle neck if you will, in getting things done and change the way, the process or the method followed…. Or you could look at it with frustration and repeat the same steps that you have taken a thousand times before only to be met with the same frustrating bottle neck over and over again. The choice is your’s, it’s your reaction to control or nurture. Look at each problem as an exciting opportunity and it is more than likely that you’ll be excited about finding a resolution.
I read a lot – online, books, blogs, articles, magazines… anything worth reading that I can get my hands on…. And along the way I picked up a lot of advice, some of them I do apply almost consistently and some when I need an extra push. One of the most effective ways that I have found of maintaining serenity in the middle of chaos is to make a list of the tasks that needs to be done, then apply the Pareto Principle of 80/20 and do the most important tasks first.
The Pareto Principle states that only 20% of all your activities will have the most impact or carry 80% of the result. Once you have identified the top most important ones, resist the urge to clean up the small tasks first. Before you begin, do your homework, set the table, decide on the outcome that you want, set a deadline and race the clock against yourself. There is never enough time to do everything, but there’s always time to do the most important things.
It is my firm belief (and I am sure I can find studies to back this up on the internet) that human brains are essentially wired to concentrate on one tasks at a time. Forget living by the buzz word of “multi-tasking”. Cut through the clutter of a million things clamoring for your attention by consciously concentrating on one task at a time. Put the phone calls on hold, stop checking the email every few minutes and before you know it you’ve found yourself un-interrupted blocks of time in which to tackle your work. Manage your time well and value it, before you end up wasting your time on anything, ask yourself, is it really important for me to devote this much time to this activity? Did the company hire me to do this? If it helps, put a dollar value to your time and then use the output of the activity to measure its importance to the amount of time that will need to be devoted to that particular one. If its worth doing, then its definitely worth doing well, so you can get it as close to perfect as possible the very first time.
In between all these – remember to BREATHE. Take a break from long stretches in front of the computer by taking a walk around the office or better yet have some music playing in the back ground and tack up your favorite pictures on your desk and do some stretching exercise while you are sitting in your desk. More often than not, I find that it’s during these little breaks that I freshen up and come back to tackle my tasks with a lot more energy and enthusiasm than if I had just slogged away at them.