I am so-o-o-o tired of listening or reading advice that is really no advice at all. I see it all the time in magazines, in newspapers, on the Internet, on television. Usually it’s a business advice column in the financial section (written by someone who never had a small business of their own) or on one of those late-night shows with some pundit walking back and forth on a stage in front of an adoring audience (pre-screened for stupidity, I assume) spouting simplistic advice that will “change your life,” “make you a happier person” or “improve your business in three simple steps.”
I recently read a column in the business section of a newspaper that purported to tell me how to maximize the results of how I spend my time in five easy steps. As follows:
» Step 1. Use your time more effectively. Do not waste your time with unimportant matters. Spend it on things that will get you the results that you want.
» Step 2. Prioritize your time. Concentrate on the most important things first and do the less important things later. If you are not careful, most of your day will be spent on unimportant efforts.
» Step 3. Set goals for what you want to accomplish each day. Setting goals will be your road map for the day. If you don’t set goals, you probably won’t achieve them.
» Step 4. Spend some time each day reviewing your progress for the day. If you take the time to do this, you will be able to redirect your efforts to get back on track.
» Step 5. Take time for yourself. You need to get away from your business from time to time to refresh yourself, get a new perspective, rest your body and your brain.
My response to advice like this? Duh, why didn’t I think of all that?
» Step 1. Strange, I thought that if I spent my time on unimportant matters, the important things would take care of themselves. Thanks for telling me that I was wrong about that.
» Step 2. Ditto. I also thought that I’d get better results if I checked the paper clip inventory before answering last night’s emails or answering the calls on my answering machine.
» Step 3. OK, I just spent time setting my goals for the day. But it is now 9:30 a.m. and I haven’t made that 8:15 return phone call yet. Oops.
» Step 4. I just discovered that I didn’t get a lot done today because A) I had to fill in for an employee who didn’t come to work today, B) I had to call a plumber for that clogged toilet, C) I spent too much time setting my goals for the day, D) I had to keep answering phone calls from those damn customers who keep calling, E) I kept trying to decide which was the most important item on my to-do list and F) etc, etc, etc.
» Step 5. Get away from the business so I’ll have time for myself? That’s what I’ve been trying to do — get the business to the point where I can get away and not spend so much time on it. Are we going around in circles here?
Platitude: a trite, banal, meaningless or prosaic statement that sounds like wisdom but isn’t. Examples: “Go with the flow,” “You gotta do what you gotta do,” “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” “Keep on, keeping on.”
Also see Steps 1-5 above.