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06 May

How to tackle the unevenness of everyday life

Datum: 2024-05-06 09:06
A serene pathway with stone steps runs alongside a traditional white wall with triangular embrasures, leading towards a castle in the background.

The stone steps that make up the path to the Japan­ese cas­tle Hime­ji have dif­fer­ent depths and heights — on pur­pose. The same is said to be true for steps lead­ing up to some Euro­pean medieval fortress­es as well.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Like the small tufts that top­ple heavy loads

The pur­pose is sim­ply to low­er the speed of those try­ing to cap­ture and occu­py the cas­tle. If the steps are even then we can sail up the stairs at full speed as soon as we have made note of how high and deep the steps are. But, if the steps are uneven, we are forced to con­cen­trate on where we put our feet and will ascend the stairs much slow­er. And we cer­tain­ly can­not focus on shoot­ing arrows at the cur­rent lord of the manor either.

The uneven­ness makes our task hard­er to manage.

Some­times flow, some­times fail

As I see it, the same goes for when and how we do our jobs. Some things, tasks, and events are always the same and we can plan and pre­pare for them as they come. Going from one place to anoth­er took exact­ly as long as we thought it would. The meet­ing was on sched­ule and end­ed on time. The report was iden­ti­cal to the one from last month. You got a hold of the per­son you need­ed an answer from and cleared up what­ev­er was both­er­ing you.

Feel­ing flow is won­der­ful. We get things done eas­i­ly since every­thing seems to just fall into place.

But, we often stum­ble on the uneven parts of life. Such a thing could be:

  • that it takes longer to do some­thing than you thought, and you fall behind schedule
  • you for­get to bring some­thing you need
  • some­one runs late for a meet­ing and you get a few min­utes over”
  • you have to do some­thing now which you had not planned for
  • a meet­ing takes longer than it was sup­posed to
  • some­one swings by your office and asks some­thing when you were focused and in the mid­dle of some­thing else
  • you put some­thing some­where oth­er than you usu­al­ly do (and have to deal with the uneven­ness” lat­er when you can­not find what you misplaced)

Some­times the unfore­seen brings an extra edge to our rou­tine and life, but it can just as well put us in uncom­fort­able and unwant­ed sit­u­a­tions. Luck­i­ly, we can do some­thing about this right now that will make things run at least a lit­tle smoother from now on.

Do this

Take a moment right now to think about what kind of uneven” things, events or sit­u­a­tions you usu­al­ly find your­self hav­ing to deal with. I just men­tioned a few but I am sure you have many more to add to that list.

Giv­en that these things or sit­u­a­tions make your life dif­fi­cult, try answer­ing the fol­low­ing questions:

  1. Which of all the things on your list could you even out? Mean­ing, which of the tasks, things, sit­u­a­tions, and events could you pre­vent from even hap­pen­ing in the first place? Could you add 50% to the esti­ma­tion you make of how long some­thing will take to ensure you fin­ish on time? Could you make it even more clear to your­self where to put some­thing so that you will eas­i­ly find it the next time you need it? Can you agree with your col­leagues on how you sig­nal that you wish not to be disturbed?
  2. Which of them can you pre­pare for? We can­not even or straight every lit­tle wrin­kle out, but we can, how­ev­er, pre­pare our­selves for the unfore­seen things that hap­pen often (and per­haps even sus­pi­cious­ly fre­quent­ly). Are you able to deter­mine which of your tasks that have a high­er pri­or­i­ty than the oth­ers, if you should real­ize you do not have time to do them all? Can you think of a way to answer the per­son want­i­ng to ask you some­thing with­out inter­rupt­ing your flow and throw­ing you off sched­ule? Can you add emp­ty slots of time reserved for doing all the unfore­seen things that seem to hap­pen daily?

Keep mov­ing forward

If we sim­ply assume that the road ahead will be uneven and bumpy at times, and instead pre­pare for the unfore­seen, it will not slow us down as much when it hap­pens. We change some­thing in our struc­ture that evens the bumps out or solves a prob­lem as it aris­es. When we find our­selves in a sticky spot, even if we can­not pre­dict when this will be, we are ready and have a solu­tion, rou­tine or trick at hand. We reach for it, use it, and put it back — just as we would with any phys­i­cal tool we might need and use.

What is your way?

What kind of uneven­ness” are you expe­ri­enc­ing at the moment, and do you have any ideas of how to han­dle, reduce or even it out? Please share your thoughts with me.

(Here’s anoth­er way to han­dle that some­thing did­n’t turn out as you had expected.)

You can have more if you want to

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