by Ted Pollock, contributing editor
Some people are overworked. But others are simply worn out by worry over what has to be done.
One of the major culprits in building up tensions is the nagging thought of accumulated small jobs put off from day to day-phone calls, letters to answer, memoranda to draw up, etc.
Here’s a simple solution that should reduce this mental load. Make a list of these undone jobs. Then start your next day off by tackling a few of these “nuisance” chores. Before you know it, your list will be completed, providing you keep at it. You’ll have a feeling of accomplishment, and your mind will be freed for important work.
Make that idea a winner
Ever had the idea of your life and had it turned down flat? Here’s a way to avoid that unhappy experience-or at least minimize the possibility of it happening.
“- State the idea clearly. Unless you can, you don’t really know what the idea is.
“- Define its value. That is, why should someone risk hard cash on your idea? What do they stand to gain or avoid losing? Make sure your answers are convincing.
“- List the assumptions on which your idea is based. For example, you may be assuming that the cost of raw materials will not increase for the next two years, that your idea can be implemented immediately, that the necessary personnel will be available. How reasonable and realistic are your assumptions? If they can be verified, take the necessary time to find out.
“- Consider your timing. Is this the best month (season, year) to propose your idea? Would it be better to wait? Conversely, are you too late? For instance, if retooling or revamping of methods are prerequisites to your idea, is there enough of a “time cushion” to prepare what is necessary?
“- Get some initial reaction to your idea. Try it out on someone familiar with your field-a salesperson, production manager, engineer, researcher. Don’t argue with their judgments. Listen to what they have to say. As outsiders with no vested interest in the idea, they may spot weaknesses or suggest modifications that never occurred to you. Take their comments under serious advisement.
“- Refine your idea as necessary. Ideally, this is the final step. This is the time to anticipate problems and eliminate them. When your idea is ready as is, present it with confidence.
You may still get turned down, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did everything in your power to come up with a winner.
Short circuit self doubts
Self-doubt afflicts most people at one time or another, but if you allow it to get the upper hand, it can paralyze initiative and sink a career before it gets off the ground. Next time you feel your self-confidence waning, ask (and answer) these questions:
“- What past failure did you overcome and turn into a success?
“- What was the toughest job you ever undertook in which you succeeded against all the odds?
“- How did you sell yourself on sticking to it when the outlook was bleakest?
“- What was the greatest compliment anybody ever paid you?
See? You’re quite a human being!
Turning a problem into a decision
Among the manager’s daily duties: reaching decisions. There seldom seems to be enough data available for a 100 percent foolproof course of action, yet those decisions must constantly be made. How can you load the dice in your favor? Try this approach:
“- Determine just how important the problem is. Then you can decide how much time to devote to it. Don’t make snap decisions in any case. If you must solve the problem quickly, just speed up each of these steps, but don’t eliminate any.
“- List the symptoms that indicate there is a problem. These may be effects rather than causes, but list them. Find out if a similar problem has ever been solved before-and how.
“- After you have gathered a reasonable number of symptoms, look for the reasons behind them.
“- Talk to everyone involved in the problem, then narrow your information down to the two or three most important points.
“- List some tentative solutions and think about them one at a time. Decide which of these is the best and act accordingly.