I was asked by someone I’m mentoring whether or not to include a certain element in a workshop she is preparing.
“Why will participants need that?” I asked.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” she said.
“Yes, but why?” I persisted. “What does it provide for anyone?
The answer, of course, is “nothing.” It’s simply another “good idea,” or favored option, or comfortable activity. This is the alternative in search of an objective, the solution in search of a problem.
Individuals and corporations do this all the time. It’s like the old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland MGM musicals, where “Let’s put on a show!” was the answer to every challenge, from bankruptcy to poison ivy.
Why are you upgrading your software every two weeks? Why are you attending meetings? Why are you providing reports? Because all of that is truly needed by you and the client, or because you think it represents some kind of forward movement satisfying some need?
Why does your client schedule meetings, run customer surveys, require ten years of experience for certain positions? Because they represent qualitative improvements or because someone things they “make sense”? How many of those survey really tell you anything, or are actually used in terms of their feedback? How many of those meetings are really needed? How many of those ten years were qualitatively worthwhile?
If you want to streamline your life and work and improve your life balance, stop implementing alternatives when you don’t know why you’re doing it, when they don’t provide obvious improvement for you and/or others, and when you’ve never asked yourself if you may be better off not doing it.
Do you want to gain a day a week, a week a month, a month a year? Examine your activities and ask if you’re performing them to improve your or someone else’s condition, of if you’ve simply “always done it that way.” I can guarantee you that you’re doing a lot the client doesn’t even feel or sense, almost as atonement or out of guilt.
Let me give you my best therapeutic analysis: Stop it!
© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.