GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Do you freeze up when your household goods delivery truck unloads those hundreds of boxes? Do you not know where to start when you look at the stacks of paperwork on your desk? Or which tasker or email to accomplish first? Well, you’re not alone.
We’re wired as humans to stop and think about how we’re going to start and complete a task. But in these busier times of limited resources and diminishing staff numbers, we’re often having tougher times analyzing multiple tasks and actually starting to knock them out. Here are some tips on how to make it a little easier for you and your staff.
First, set a clear goal that is achievable and you and your staff can relate to and be motivated by. While it is good to speak in administrative and managerial terms and say “I’m going to reduce our warehouse clutter/backlog by 13.1 percent in the next 30 days,” how about saying “In 30 days I’m going to clear out enough space in our warehouse so that I can set up a couple chairs and a table so I can sit with my staff and enjoy a break rather than standing or sitting on the floor during break time.” This is not only a great goal to aspire to, but puts a visual emotion to it. Not only is the space a win due to you getting rid of some backlog, but the space will also be seen and felt as a win because you can now use that area for something your staff has wanted.
Second, get moving. Choices in life are usually a good thing, but when given too many choices to pick, our bodies shut down in what’s called “decision paralysis.” You get over this by just picking a point and starting, use your gut and training to estimate where the best and safest place to start is. If the place you estimate to start is probably an 80 percent good choice, then just do it. Do not sit there and ensure your starting point is 100 percent the most logical place to start. If you sat there and tried to figure out the 100 percent point, it will take you so much longer that you probably will be buried even deeper in the backlog you’re trying to get rid of.
So start unpacking that first box that you’re closest to, or start with one corner of your desk paperwork, or start with the hottest task or email. Point is, start.
Third, don’t focus too much on figuring out the whole plan and all steps to get to your goal, just keep marching towards your goal. As you reach each new point or challenge, decide how to tackle it as you get there. With the household goods example, don’t try to figure out all the “what ifs,” for example, what if I can’t lift the next box up because it’s too heavy, or what if the next box doesn’t belong in this room? Don’t worry about the what ifs, worry about it when the “if” happens. Make sure you (and your team) are aware of these priorities. What I recommend is to make sure your goal is posted clearly and viewable by all. I like to call this the North Star. This way whenever you get sidetracked, lost or stumble, look at your North Star to guide you and, or the Team back on track. You’re smart enough to think as you go. So you’ll be able to call someone to help you lift that heavy box, or move that wrong room box to the side so you can bring it to the other room later, if “if” happens.
Fourth, speaking of stumbling, stumbling is not a foul and can be looked at as a huge positive. As long as you learn from your mistake and prevent a similar stumble, then you have succeeded. Be proud to share your stumble and what you found out with your colleagues. In the medical field for example, new surgery techniques and medications are often associated with new problems never seen before. These new problems and how to prevent or minimize them are documented and shared with colleagues around the world. This way thousands of patients around the world have less risk because of your stumble and what you did after that stumble. So don’t be afraid to share your mistakes with others, in fact, I try to share ALL of my stumbles and my lessons learned with others to help their lives be better, safer, easier etc., and I haven’t been fired yet.
My fifth recommendation, is to have fun and celebrate along the way. Using our warehouse example, the first step was to clear enough space for a table and chairs. That is a great first milestone. Why not celebrate with the supervisor buying some light refreshments for all or have a pot luck? Maybe the next milestone is to clear enough space to park a vehicle. So how about have a raffle to let a person park their vehicle out of the elements in that space for a week? I love cars, so for me this is the perfect wash-wax-detailing out of the elements opportunity and a huge perk. After that, how about clear enough space to park a large piece of equipment such as a forklift or a fire truck? And with that, call the base senior leadership, get a cake and have your picture taken by Public Affairs in front of the equipment in your warehouse? These are monumental steps and celebrations along the way, this not only makes it fun, but helps you and your staff stay motivated and continue to focus on the positives along the way.
Remember we are all very busy and we all get overwhelmed. We’re only human. The trick is knowing that we can get overwhelmed, embrace the challenges and stumbles, enjoy the little wins, and take small steps to stay in front of things. As long as we continue to do this, then we and our mission will continue to succeed.