There’s nothing worse than when you feel you’re thrashing. If you’ve never heard of “thrashing” then you’re likely to be one of the few lucky individuals that have never experienced it either. Thrashing happens when you have so much on your plate, you end up jumping from one activity to another and never completing anything.
Thrashing originated as a computer term to describe the hard drive head as it moved across a platter of disks. When users add and delete files, disk fragmentation occurs and the hard drive head has to jump like a jackrabbit all over its surface in order to access a single file. In a non-tech talk.…you hear what sounds like mice scurrying around in your PC.
The technical boffins solved this problem by constantly “defragmenting” the hard drive and rearranging all of the file parts so the hard drive head moved to one spot to pick up the file. We can learn a lot from this approach.
So the other day I found myself on three IM chats, a skype conference call, emails pouring in and a things to do list a mile long.
As an aside, I’ve used the far more sensible metric system all of my life and yet saying my things to do list is a kilometer long just doesn’t sound right. I tip my hat to all of you recalcitrant Americans who insist on still using miles, gallons and ounces rather than kilometers, liters and grams.
I’ve often wondered though how you express thousands of something? Is it kilogallons? Do you ask your local shop for a kilo-ounce of sugar? Then again, you’d probably end up filling up your entire kitchen with that much, so probably not.
So back to my thrashing around skype, IM and emails. After muting the mike on skype (I hope I did anyway) I let out a little scream, smiled and began to politely extricate myself from the myriad of noise that I really didn’t need to be a part of.
That’s the thing. Thrashing normally occurs when you stick your nose into places that it really doesn’t belong. After getting a whiff of what’s there you feel obligated to do something about the problem and clean up the mess. Note to self….other people are quite capable of cleaning up their own messes.
So I looked at my list, had a bit of a delirious chuckle and began removing all those things to do that I didn’t have to really be involved with. In the process I discovered a long last feature of skype…..the away button. It gave me the time to think rather than react.
At the end of my review process I had a more manageable list and I followed my mother’s instructions. For some reason, most mothers are absolute geniuses when it comes to getting stuff done. It’s probably the fact that they have vast amounts of experience ensuring that children are fed, clean and not sticking their little fingers in power sockets. My mother was brilliant at stopping me from doing the latter btw.
What did my mother say? She said, “Get your list together, start one task and don't stop until it’s finished.”
What a brilliant piece of advice! Before computers were invented and hard drive heads weren’t even a technician’s dream my mother solved the problem of thrashing. I sometimes wonder if the techies just sat down with a few mothers we could have had the world of the Jetson’s by now…..what a lost opportunity.
So I did what my mother told me and my MBA be damned. Who needs a master’s in business when you have an expert with a bachelor of common sense to look up to! It was amazingly liberating. Stuff got done, people stopped complaining because I was delayed in finishing a task and I had a smile on my face.
That’s when I realized, that I’d left skype on “away”…..no wonder I’d suddenly gained so much time.
Have a great weekend!