Sometimes, I think the speed of life has turned us all into a bunch of clock brains.
You know what I mean by clock brain, right?
It’s not something anyone aspires to, that’s for sure. It looks like this:
You fall into a good job. No, a job you absolutely love. A job you can’t wait to keep coming to, where your colleagues are good people and your work makes a difference.
But it’s a job that doesn’t stop. There is no slow period, no real break, no time to regroup and get things together. There’s no time to stop and smell the proverbial roses, because there are proverbial daisies over there that need planting while the conditions are right. There’s always a new deadline to meet and limited resources available. New projects knock on your door while you’re still knee-deep in old ones, but if you miss out on this one, it could be the end.
That’s when clock brain begins. Not all at once, mind you. I’ll never find the time starts as a thought, actually, in response to a particularly busy moment when three, four, maybe five things are courting the same deadline, and your go-to people are caught up in their own work.
Soon, the thought grows into a belief, then becomes a vocal expression, then a limiting belief and in dire cases, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Thing is, it’s still only a thought. Not a reality. Because when we’re wasting precious moments by spinning our wheels in clock brain, we’re so convinced by the belief of more time = more work completed that we ignore solutions—or, at the least, thinking in terms of solutions rather than limitations.
How do I know? I’ve fought clock brain for years. On a regular basis, I’ve assaulted my planner with neon sticky notes and hot pink highlighters, to no avail. While I haven’t figured out how to cram three more hours into each day, I’ve slowly come to see the problem not as a limitation of time, but my approach on how to get the work I need to get done, well, get done.
Maybe one of these strategies can help you break the cycle of clock brain thinking, too. Give one a try the next time you find yourself wishing for more hours in a day:
- Go outside your company
If you’ve got more work than you and your employees can reasonably handle on a daily basis and maintain the business expectations, it may be time to consider adding employees. Especially for times when the work can be easily explained and delegated, bringing new people on board can also infuse your work and companies with fresh ideas.
- Hire temporary help
Temporary is just that: for a set task or period of time. With strategic use of temporary help during peak seasons or for intensive tasks, you may find what you perceived as a problem due to lack of time is just a need for an extra set of hands.
- Hire a full-time employee
Breaking in a new employee requires more of a time investment in upfront training, but the payoff can be exponential, especially if their job frees up time for the people you most count on, or who do the largest portion of daily tasks.
- Hire a consultant
If you have the capital, a consultant’s observations can be invaluable in terms of not only how to free up more time on projects now, but on how to fine-tune your operations for the future with a critical eye toward how to best manage time and tasks.
When reliable temporary help is difficult to find, outsourcing is a viable and cost-effective consideration.
It can also relieve employees of mundane tasks so they can focus on the core of your business operations.
- Work within your company
Getting work done doesn’t have to require going outside of your company if you already have folks with the expertise and knowledge to complete tasks. Sometimes, getting more done requires a rethinking of the business structure and skills of the people you’ve got, with an eye toward collaboration.
By far the most time-intensive, reorganization will require a massive amount of time and planning to do well, but may be worth consideration if you discover what’s worked for you in the past is no longer able to keep up with or maintain operations in the way most profitable for your business.
- Transfer within
Is there someone in another department you’ve heard good things about? Do they have a skill you constantly find yourself seeking? All of us start jobs with one skill set and add more talents as time goes by. It’s a good practice to keep an ear out for positive comments and accolades as this may serve your needs in the future.
- Reduce or eliminate
This one requires hard questions. Is this task something necessary and critical to operations or success? It’s important to bring in the opinions of others you trust before making a choice to forgo a task or project. If it doesn’t impact your bottom line, is it completely necessary? Is there a way it can be simplified or absorbed into another project?
With the right relationships in place, delegation is simple. Be careful that your delegation doesn’t negatively impact the work and time of the person you choose, and that your delegation doesn’t become an easy way to avoid seeking a better option.
If the project or task is a one-time or limited-time need, you might have the person you need to do the job down the hall. Contract with them and offer terms of agreement on the task/project so they do their best work and don’t view this as being ‘something else’ they have to do in addition to their regular duties.
- Create alliances, allies and trades
There are clear-cut times when you need to hire, and there are times when your company can hash out an agreement with another company to swap services of equivalent value. What is something your company does well that another compatible (or competitor) company could use? Do they have a talent or skill that could help you? What connections do you have with these organizations that you can mine for more details and information? Especially in smaller companies where operating budgets are already tight, collaborating builds collegiality while getting work done. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
So the next time you’re caught in a time crunch, ditch clock brain and try one of these solutions to move yourself forward. Start simple, start small … but start somewhere.
Beth Morrow is a recovering clock brain, freelance writer, teacher and program director at Camp Hamwi, a residential camp for teens with diabetes. Reach her at Beth@BethMorrow.com.