Saturday, November 3, 2012

Simplify Your Work Life

In the early 2000's, Elaine St. James became very popular with her Simplify series.  I recently read Simplify Your Work Life
This is a quick read, and becoming less relevant to me.  But, she still brings up some interesting ideas.

St. James talks about "batching" your work together.  Do all your phone calls at once, then your typing, then your research, etc.  She talks about only doing one thing at a time and getting in particular mindsets ... such as the writing mindset, then the phone call mindset.  As a home schooling mom, this seems impossible. 

A typical moment in my day will consist of me emptying the dishwasher, keeping Catherine on task with her math worksheets, making a quesadilla in the microwave for Sabrina, talking on the phone with a doctor to change an appointment, getting Catherine's feeding pump started, and helping Sabrina pick out paint colors for her newest creation.  I am not exaggerating.  I rarely get to do just one thing at a time, let alone batch my tasks by type. 

Instead, I divide my interest and focus among several different tasks.  I cannot imagine of any other way to handle the quantity of tasks I must do each day.

A more relevant piece of advice which St. James gives is to limit your Internet usage strictly.  This book was written in 2001.  The vast majority of Americans have not taken this advice and now, with the advent of smart phones, are even more addicted to Internet usage.

St. James also suggests that you take a sabbatical for six months and focus on travel, studying, hobbies, etc.  She claims that two out of ten companies offer sabbatical programs.  I doubt the accuracy of her statement.  Other than preachers, I have never met anyone who has ever taken or even considered a sabbatical.  Maybe some college professors.  But the vast majority of employees, in fact almost all, cannot even consider taking off six months of work to "study" or "travel."  It would be great, but seems like incredibly impractical advice.  Actually, impossible advice for parents of small children.

Saying no and creating and enforcing boundaries is a problem for me.  I constantly agree to do too much.  St. James suggests approaching "boundary setting" as a game or a skill which I need to learn. 

Like all business books I have ever read, St. James discusses the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of our boss' satisfaction with us is based on twenty percent of the work which we do.  This probably also applies to our marital and parental roles too.

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