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If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

I was six when I first saw a street performer. At the time, I didn’t even know the word “juggling”, but I was mesmerized by the parade of colourful balls in the air nonetheless. How quick must his hands be! Tugging at my mom’s T-shirt, I stood there for half an hour and watched his whole performance.

As I grew up, I have unconsciously become a professional juggler as well – only that my performance is not as fancy, and the balls I juggle are much, much heavier. Family, friends, health, work – one slip of the hand, and everything would come tumbling down.

I believe we have all experienced that same feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have to do, tasks we have to complete and people we need to be with. Therefore, I would like to share with you my take on this matter:

The Four Burners Theory[1]

According to The Four Burners Theory by David Sedaris: family, friends, health and work are the four burners of a stove (which is your life). In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

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Life is filled with tradeoffs.

In The Downside of Work-Life Balance,[2] James Clear mentioned two methods he tried before:

“Can I succeed and keep all four burners running?
Perhaps I could combine two burners?”

However, after a brief period of experimentation, he realized: life is filled with tradeoffs. As much as we would like to be the best employee, parent, husband/wife and friend at the same time, we simply do not have the energy or time to do so. Should you take on this extra project at work or should you go to the party your friend in college is holding? Should you take a nap to rejuvenate yourself or help your son with his art homework?

It is difficult to choose. However, that does not mean all we can do is throw our hands up and yell in frustration, “It’s impossible!” So get ready to take some notes!

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1. Let go of unimportant things and people.

Have you ever been wondering along the lines of “why do I never have time for things I deem important?” Have you tried to make time for your family but found your schedule filled to the brim by gatherings and parties?

Think. Prioritize. Act.

Think about what is important. Prioritize your activities. Take action and clear your schedule of things that you are simply going out of courtesy. Those six o’clock drinks after work? That golf game that you are not really that interested in? That high school friend you haven’t seen and talked with for years?

Let them go. Get some rest, talk with your kids about school, or even just cuddle with your husband/wife a bit. It might sound ironic, but the fewer things you put on your schedule, the more fulfilling you feel.

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2. Focus on one thing at a time. Be efficient.

It’s too often that we believe we can simultaneously take care of multiple things at the same time. Typing out that proposal while taking side glances at your kid to make sure he didn’t swallow a Lego. Scrolling through Facebook to catch up with everything in the world while talking to a friend.

Earlier research has shown that multitasking undermines efficiency in work because extra time and effort is spent on shifting mental gears as we switch between different tasks. [3]

Therefore, instead of trying to do 10 things at the same time, focus on completing the task on hand. You might find yourself with a lot more time in the end!

3. Reflect, reflect, reflect.

After every day, take a short time to think about what you want to do and what you have done. Do they match up? Is there anything you can do to improve?

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Think about things like: do you enjoy what you are doing right now? If you want to take a step and make a change, what do you want to achieve? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to get higher recognition at work?

If you are satisfied with how things are right now – that is great! If it is the contrary though, plan carefully and discuss with your loved ones about how you want to readjust. It might take a little time, but the result would definitely be fruitful.

Every choice has a cost.

In the end, we are all a bit greedy – but just like every story, no one could truly have it all. We need to remember that every choice has a cost, and we just have to make sure that as we juggle in life, we choose the things that are the most important to us.

Reference

[1] LAUGH, KOOKABURRA A day in the bush, a night at home. David Sedaris The New Yorker
[2] The Downside of Work-Life Balance, James Clear
[3] Multitasking undermines our efficiency, American Psychological Association

More by this author

Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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