No, I am not talking about basketball (although my family IS pretty excited that Northwestern made it to the NCAA tournament this year, for the first time!).
This March madness is about feeling anxious or worried. You might gauge that by sleepless nights, spousal fights, or the number of drinks it takes to relax. We all have our own way of manifesting worry. But sometimes it sneaks up on us -- one thing gradually adds to another -- and suddenly, it dawns on us that we are "on edge." On the edge to full-blown anxiety, perhaps!
That's madness. Worry accomplishes NOTHING worthwhile. In a world of Lean management -- it is a total waste of time -- let's call it unnecessary processing.
One way to get yourself off the ledge, or proverbial edge, is to think about a concept advanced by the late Stephen Covey. You have a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. The one of influence contains the actions and forces you can control, or at least influence. These are things like how you manage your time, what you decide to buy, if you are going to exercise, the level of quality you invest in a work product. The Circle of Influence (sometimes referred to as the "Circle of Control") sits inside your Circle of Concern. There are many external factors that have an impact on your life, but over which you have no control. It can be something big like an economic downturn, something close to home like a new boss, or something very personal like a parent with dementia.
Dr. Covey suggested that the closer your Circle of Influence is to that of Concern, the more "highly effective" you become, and the more proactive you are. For our purposes here, let's just say awareness is the first step to knowing you have a problem! When you examine the source of your worry, is it something you can influence? Or is it beyond your control? If it is out of your Circle of Influence, is there anything you can do that would mitigate the impact of whatever is of concern? Then that is under your influence. Distinguish the difference. If there's nothing you can do, let it go.
Another image that helps me to deal with worry is that of a boulder. Whatever is bothering me is a burden that is weighing on me. I cannot carry it as a boulder -- so what I need to do, if this is something I should carry, is break the boulder into pieces of rock. Then I take the rocks and break them into manageable sized stones. In project management, this is called a work breakdown structure. Instead of being overwhelmed and anxious -- and probably procrastinating -- about a big "something" that has to get done, I take this systematic approach to get to what might seem like a todo list, but is something better.
Briefly, the boulder represents the project. The rocks in project management are called "work packages." Typically, you organize your work packages by phase (e.g., in systems development and construction, they tend to be requirement analysis, design, build, test, implement) or by deliverable (e.g., for an event, you would have promotion, logistics, catering, entertainment, decorations). Then you take each rock and break it down into stones. These are the action items (so they should have a verb). For a wedding, the promotion work package could be broken down to:
March Madness? Don't waste your time. Focus on what you can influence, what can be done, and break it down. No brackets, here.
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