Taking Words Seriously Can Help You Get Things Done

Thinking Tips

“I need more time.” That is what a client told me was the solution to his grueling work schedule.

We say such things without thinking about it, but it’s worth pausing for a moment to focus on the thought. How could the solution possibly be more time? There is no such thing as getting more time. There are 24 hours in the day. That’s it. You can’t get more time. How can you “need” the impossible? Why would you want the impossible?

This is a simple case where using accurate words helps you solve problems. I suggested it would be more accurate to say my client needs a bigger impact from the time he spends.

“I need a bigger impact” is something that could guide him. Should he cut two hours from his sleep to get “more time”? No–that would reduce his brain functioning for all his waking hours, and reduce his impact. Where can he get greater impact? Early in his workday, not late when he’s tired. What tasks should he cut? The ones with the least impact.

Sometimes the words are true but vague. Someone says, “I’m not getting anywhere.” Well, what exactly is happening? Are you going in circles? Are you avoiding doing the work? Are you working hard but everything is taking five times longer than you thought? Did you give up after slogging along for hours? The solution to the problem is different in each of these cases.

This is one reason I don’t talk much about procrastination. In many cases, when someone says “I’m procrastinating,” I find it’s a euphemism for, “I’m not doing it, and the only reason I can think of offhand for why not is that I’m just being bad.”

Such a thought warrants further scrutiny.

When you don’t do what you planned, there is always a reason. It’s not always a good reason, but it is always a clue to what needs to change to transform the plan into action.

Maybe there was a chain of events that contributed to putting it off. How you do influence the chain of events next time? Maybe you had the perfect opportunity, and checked email instead. Oops–next time you need to recognize that impulse for what it is (a diversion).

Putting the problem into exact words makes all the difference.

We live in an approximate age. It’s common to slide over problems using euphemisms or blurt out issues using the first words that occur to one. Anything goes. But it’s worth taking a look at the words–taking the words seriously–and challenge whether they make sense. Are they true? Are they based on truth? Are they exact?

Clarify the words, and you clarify the thought. Clarify the thought and you clarify the problem. Clarify the problem and you are most of the way to a solution.

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