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-Jim, how are you doing today?
-I'm doing well. Let's go digging for clams.
-That's what we're doing. We're diving into the mailbag.
-There you go.
-We are answering your questions.
-Today we have a question from Seattle, Washington.
-A good place for clams.
-We've got a Thriver there in Seattle that wrote this question, and I'm just going to read it and then I'm just going to ask you to just give us a fire hose analogy.
-All right, here we go. They write in, I really struggle with concentration. During the day my phone rings--
-I'm sorry, what?
-OK. All right. Go ahead.
-Well, I need you to concentrate, Jim.
-I'm concentrating, focused.
-Here we go.
-I really struggle with concentration. During the day, my phone rings, I get text messages and 50 emails, and then it seems like my day's over before I really had a chance to start. I don't want to be a jerk, but I need to find a way to say no to people so that I can have some time to concentrate on growing my business.
-Yeah, there's a quote from Steve Jobs, don't remember the exact quote, but paraphrasing, he said, success is not so much about what you say yes to as it is what you say no to. You know, you need to be focused, of course, on what you want, but you've got to say no to all those things that take you away from that.
Well, that's easy to say, but what if you're getting all these emails? And I totally sympathize. I'm getting text messages every day. I'm getting hundreds, literally, of emails every day personally. I've got all these different projects going on.
If one of your problems-- and I'm reading this into the way you said it-- if one of your problems is that people are not allowing you the privilege of focusing on something until you get real progress produced on it, then you need to have a meeting with your coworkers about that.
And just say, hey, I'm happy to get back to you on your emails, your texts and your other messages, even when you drop in, that kind of thing. But I also-- or, and-- you know, but sort of cancels everything. And I need certain times during the day where I can truly focus my mind and concentrate. And I have a few approaches to that that I want to try out. You tell me what works best for you. That's the one I'm going to pursue.
One would be to get a door hanger from a hotel that says do not disturb and put it on my door. And there will be certain times of the day I'm not going to answer my phone, I'm not going to respond to email. I'm just going to focus on the task that I need to complete. I promise not to leave it there all the time, but when it's there, please respect it.
Another thing would be you could say, my door's always open, or maybe I don't even have a door, it's a cubicle, whatever, but I'm always available to you except I would appreciate the privilege of being able to focus on some tasks without interruption from time to time.
CALEB TAYLOR: Right.
-And I'll let you know when those times are. And during that time, if it's not an emergency, please keep what you've got until a later time so that I can concentrate. And by the way, I return the same privilege to you. So it's not just I'm asking for this for myself, I'm quite happy to return the favor.
But create a culture around that. There's a woman named Laura Stack, S T A C K, who's a time management specialist. Actually, she calls herself the productivity pro. She's a wonderful, wonderful person and the most productive, organized person I've ever known.
CALEB TAYLOR: Really?
-And she is an absolute master at this and teachers it. So get a copy of her book, "The Productivity Pro", and look her up on the online and I think you'll find some great ideas on how to concentrate.
-This is huge. And so you're identifying it really as a time management type issue it seems like.
-Oh, it totally is. Yeah. But it's also a relationship issue because a lot of times other people don't respect your work focus and they think, well, you're here, so you obviously are available for me to bring my projects to you... Tulsa Community College Business School.
There was a guy named William Oncken, O N C K E N, who wrote an article for "Harvard Business Review" years ago called "Managing Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?" and that became one of the most popular reprints of "Harvard Business Review" ever.
CALEB TAYLOR: Really?
-Ever. One of their top sellers of all time, and it was because it was such a simple but profound
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-He said that the problem with managing management time is monkeys.
CALEB TAYLOR: Monkeys?
-He said, you talk about having a responsibility, it means the monkey's on your back, right? The monkey's on your back to get that job done. Well, he said if you're a manager, you're sitting in your office and you've got your own room full of monkeys on your back that you're managing. And then here comes Caleb, and he's got this monkey on his back and he says, hey boss. I got this monkey. And he sets his monkey on your desk. And he says, I need help with this monkey.
And you say well, I got my own monkey. I got my own tasks and problems to solve right now. Leave it here and I'll get back to you. Now what just happened was Caleb walks out of the office totally free, and you've got his monkey, in addition to your monkeys.
So at the end of the day, since you didn't get to all of yours or to his, you put all the monkeys in that briefcase and you take them home and they scream at you all night long. And then the next morning, you open it up and there they all are again.
Here's one technique, and this is from William [INAUDIBLE]. He said when Caleb comes in with the monkey on his back and he says, hey boss, I need to talk to you about this project, you say OK. Set the monkey down here. I'm not going to touch the monkey but we're going to talk about the monkey. And so we talk about the task or the project, and then I tell Caleb what Caleb's next moves are related to the task.
So he picks it up once again and leaves the office with it, and I no longer have his problem. He's still solving his problem.
-Because I haven't just abdicated it and given you responsibility.
-That's right. Yeah. And so that's the way you manage the multiple tasks and the intrusion of other people on your time and all that much more effectively. Make sure that the task doesn't get delegated up to you, because then Caleb will be dropping by and saying how's it going on that task, which means now he's supervising you, and you're his supervisor. This is dysfunctional.
Another example-- my son and my grandson. Jason, when he was younger-- he's 14 now, but when he was very young-- he was getting all teary-eyed and whiny about something. And my son, Jim, said to him-- son. Jason said, yeah. And he said, solve your problem. And Jason said, why are you doing this? Jason, solve your problem. And Jason said, what? And he said, you're telling me what the problem is. Solve your problem.
And so Jason said well, I don't know what to do. And he talked about it, and Jason did that, and the problem went away.
-There you go.
-Solve your problem. Too many times people come to us and we like to be the big helper. Come, I will bless you. Right? And we solve their problem. Well, they're no better at problem solving than they were 15 minutes ago. You're better, but that wasn't the point. You want them to be better.
See, the role of a manager or a supervisor is to become less and less needed by the people that you're supervising over time. The less they need you, the better a job you did as manager. If every time they bring you a problem, you solve the problem, you're an enabler of their weakness. And you're also always increasing the size of your own job.
So get out of the job of solving others' problems and get into the job of helping others learn to solve their problems so that they solve their own problems and they become more capable. And now your team is a much more powerful force than it was before.
-And you're saying it all comes back to that time blocking, time management. I mean, that's what it starts with, because you're saying if not, you are grabbing everybody else's monkeys and you'll never get it done. You bring it home. That's a great analogy, because that does come home with us and tortures us.
So if you don't time block-- I encourage you, too, we built this time management software on this site. Utilize that, because that's going to be-- watch those time management seminars with Lee Cockerell. But utilize what we've built into the site, because-- what do you do? When do you check your emails? I mean, do you have set times for this? Is that something that infiltrates what you do?
-I'm not highly disciplined about that, but I'm highly disciplined about enough things that that isn't a problem for me, because I'm pretty self aware, which I've cultivated over 30 or 40 years. So when I'm in something and I'm doing it in a way that's dysfunctional, I'll notice that I'm doing that. And so I slow it down or pause long enough to interrupt the pattern and make a better decision.
And that's the key. If you're in a pattern that's not working, stop. Interrupt the pattern and back off and make a better decision as to your next step instead of just diving right back into your pattern.
CALEB TAYLOR: I love that. That's huge. Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom. Guys, if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to write in. We care about answering these questions and we appreciate you taking the time to dive in the mail bag with me.
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