In one of the workshops that I present on my foundational framework for time management, I discuss the importance of patterns.
Quite often we see or hear or experience the same things over and over and over again, yet we don’t do anything to change it or possibly even prevent it. Why is that?
The answer is, when we get annoyed by the same types of questions from co-workers or yet another request made about similar projects, we tend to focus on removing that annoyance from our immediate vicinity instead of pausing to analyze:
*if this occurrence could be part of a pattern?
*if so, what is that pattern?
*what is the cause of this pattern?
*can it be prevented (or at least reduced)?
*when it does happen, what’s the most effective and efficient way to mitigate it?
This whole phenomenon of experiencing or doing the same thing over and over and over again is very similar to the concept of the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray’s character relives the same day. I much prefer the realization Tom Cruise’s character makes in Edge of Tomorrow. He’s experiencing the same scenario repeatedly, but once he figures this out, he takes steps to observe, learn, and make operational adjustments in order to reach his objective. That’s exactly what we need to do (sans the aliens invading from outer space).
Speaking of Groundhog Day, did you know that the concept originated way back in ancient Christian times when the townsfolk in a village would attempt to figure out how many candles they’d need until the end of winter, and then have the clergy bless them? Way back when, candles were extremely expensive so people would conserve them as much as possible, carefully lighting them only when necessary, and being sure to use up every last bit of the candle – even if that meant burning both ends of it.
In a not-so-obvious way, Groundhog Day has ties to time management:
*Nowadays, many people burn the candle at both ends. But instead of doing this to maximize expensive candles, it’s done to work and work some more and keep on working in the quest to do more and more and more. While burning a candle at both ends back in the day was an excellent way to maximize an important resource, today, we’re simply wasting a valuable resource when we do that. WE are that valuable resource, and without rest and recharge, we lower our productivity levels.
*We can be blind to patterns. Instead of doing or experiencing the same frustrating or annoying things over and over, what if you paused and asked yourself the questions I listed above? The amount of time you’ll save on scaling back interruptions, last minute questions, and other people trying to make their emergency yours is definitely worth you pausing for a few minutes to mull this over.
*We don’t have to remain in a shadow. Punxsutawney Phil may not have control over whether or not the sun shines and does or does not cast a shadow, but we have a choice in whether or not we take steps to move toward the light or do nothing and live in a shadow. If you’re not satisfied with your current situation or mode of operation, you can reflect, plan and act on an operational change.
You might only think of rodents and their shadows when Groundhog Day rolls around, but hopefully from here on out, you’ll now think about:
*Burning a candle at only one end instead of both
*Being more observant of patterns so you can prevent or reduce annoying time sucks
*Making a change in how you operate if you currently are not pleased while operating in a shadow
Happy Groundhog Day!
(For historical buffs: Germans added to the candle counting tradition using a hedgehog to predict the length of winter. When early German settlers came to America, they shifted to a groundhog to carry on the tradition. For historical wine buffs: Be sure to look up how the hedgehog was involved with weather forecasts in Montepulciano, Italy!)
For more guidance on not burning the candle at both ends as well as making operational changes if you’re not pleased with your current situation, check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.