Remember when you were little and all you needed to do was cover your eyes and whatever “scary” thing was there would magically go away! How great was that! Wouldn’t it be cool if you could still “cover your eyes” and your biggest stress would go away?
Actually, you’d be surprised how much of your stress is easy to remove (or manage). Not quite, “cover-your-eyes-presto-they’re-gone” easy, but close.
Take the Treadmill Syndrome for example – you know what I’m talking about – this Syndrome is characterized by thoughts like:
- “I’m out of control”
- “I’ll never catch up”
- “My life is not my own”
- “I’m a pinball being bounced around every day.”
If you experience this even occasionally – you know it’s not fun.
What if I told you the reasons behind the Treadmill Syndrome are largely in your control?
In fact, if you took time to slow down, pull it apart and study it – you’d see how much control you have over the treadmill.
Since many of you are on the treadmill (and thus don’t have the time to study it), I did it for you. Listed below are six common reasons you get stuck on the treadmill. Read them all, consider the suggested solutions – and take charge of your life.
1. Lack of a Focus/Plan/Direction: Without a clear focus, defined plan and/or sense of purpose you are like a snowball. You start small and controlled, but as you roll and bounce through life, more and more stuff gets “stuck” to your “to do’s”. You are susceptible to expanding tasks and chores without a filter or compass to direct. You are active, but not productive.
The Fix: Focus each year on 3 to 5 goals (personal or professional). Use your focused goals to vet the opportunities that cross your path. Do that which contributes to your goals. By-pass those that don’t. Keep focussed on the prize.
2. Not Enough Courage: Courage is required to say “no” to requests or expectations. Courage is needed to manage your life and make the tough choices necessary to improve your circumstances. When you stop managing important choices you become the “victim.” Soon the treadmill is your normal.
The Fix: Add some relativity to your situation. If you are really stuck in the Treadmill Syndrome, what do you have to lose? What are you waiting for? Build your courage before you hit the bottom – take back your choices and you start to take back your life!
3. Poor Time Management: Steven Covey’s classic book First Things First contains practical and effective time management tips. As he puts it, you get stuck doing Urgent, but not Important tasks (e.g., firefighting, last minutes chaos, errands, etc.). Consequently, the productive hours of your day get spent on the least important activities. Thus, that which is important needs to be crammed in other parts of your day – this destroys any white space and pushes you farther behind.
The Fix: Select the 2 or 3 must do’s each day and start with them. Begin to identify the not urgent and the not important and stop doing it. Say no or give it to someone else, but strive to spend time on the important, but not urgent – that creates more control.
4. Doing too Much Yourself: Many leaders neglect performance issues. Consequently, too much time is spent ‘filling the gap’ between what your staff should be doing versus what they actually do. Additionally, if you are not willing to delegate to others, you are held down. “Treadmill regulars” are reluctant to let go – don’t fall into that trap.
The Fix: Hold people accountable; if they can’t do it – find someone who can. Delegate – push tasks down as far into your organization (or family) as you can. My Mom had us do our own laundry by age 12 – it isn’t that hard!
5. Being 10 Minutes Late to Everything: If you tend to cram “one more task or phone call in” you are always going to be behind. If you are always behind, you don’t pause, rethink, juggle or adjust. This is classic treadmill behavior! You think you are begin productive by “using every second”, but you are not. You need some time to manage your day. Always being behind isn’t deliberate. You simply run from one task to the next and before you know it – another day on the treadmill has past.
The Fix: Schedule ‘white space’ into your day. Consider “down time” as strategic and use it wisely. Pause for a minute at the top of every hour and reflect. Did you use the last hour wisely? What should you do differently next hour? Don’t let 8 hours fly by without being deliberate in how it is spent. Avoid chasing your tail through your day.
6. Not Letting Good Enough be Good Enough: It is well documented – perfect is the enemy of good! If you are often on the treadmill, I predict you have perfecionistic tendencies. You put in time and effort past the point of value-added impact. In financial terms, there is not good ROI (Return on Investment) for the time, energy and effort to take something from ‘good enough’ to ‘perfect.’
The Fix: Adopt the 80:20 Rule. If it is 80% “right” – move on. Most won’t notice if it is 10% ‘better’ and the time it takes to get to 90% or 95% is often extensive. Sure, on occation something needs to be perfect, but not that often.
There you have it – the 6 common elements keeping you on the treadmill and 6 ‘fixes’ to get you off.
Now the decision is your. Make good choices and try something different. You’ll be glad you did!
Not interested? Not willing? – All I can say is “Run Forest Run”!