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Four Kinds of Vampires that Haunt Your Life (and What to Do About Them)

Four Kinds of Vampires that Haunt Your Life (and What to Do About Them)

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    You are surrounded by vampires.

    They circle you, slowly, eyeing your throat, their teeth glistening in the moonlight. Your heart pounds in your chest as they move in, intent on draining your life’s blood for their own unholy nourishment. A scream rises up in your chest as they close in on you, their fangs bared, and then you feel the first pair of teeth sinking into your throat.

    “Hey, Dustin, got a minute? I want to tell you about this awesome party I went to over the weekend. We were sooooo wasted, and…”

    The horror! The HORROR!!!

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    The vampires in this tale aren’t the supernatural beings of myth and legend, the Transylvanian undead doomed to walk the night for all eternity, feeding on the blood of the unsuspecting people around them. No, these vampires move about freely in the daylight, and they feed not on blood but on your time, attention, and yes, your very soul. And crosses, garlic, and holy water have no effect on them.

    And who are these wretched damned? They come in many forms and wear many guises. Often, you will recognize them not by their own actions, but by their effect on you: the tapping foot, the ignored gestures of impatience, the tightening of the chest as your time slips away, the forced laughter at yet another of their stupid, mean-spirited, or just plain pointless jokes.

    There are many kinds of vampires that threaten you daily. Here are four you have probably encountered recently, and how to dispatch them to the realm from which they emerged.

    1. The time-sucking fiend

    The time-sucking fiend seeks only your time – the more of it they can consume, the stronger they get. They drop by the office with hour-long explanations that could have been summed up in a five-sentence email, they call at all hours “just to say ‘hi'” and simply won’t let you hang up, they CC you and everyone else they know on every email (especially the ones that promise a gruesome death if you don’t follow suit) – and when you actually need them, they’re nowhere to be found.

    Like summoning a demon, dealing with the time-sucking fiend relies on powerful boundaries – and also like summoning a demon, you can only count on yourself to maintain those boundaries. While you might have heard business leaders extolling the virtues of an “open-door” policy, you have to realize that an open door is an invitation, and you hopefully know better than to invite a vampire in! It’s better to limit your open door to specific times and schedule the rest of your work around those times.

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    But the most powerful weapon in your arsenal against time-sucking fiends, your wooden stake, is to just say “No”.

    “Hey Jan, got a minute?”

    “Oh, sorry, I really don’t. I’m hard at work on this report/email to a vendor/chapter of my novel/game of Solitaire. If it’s important, why don’t you send me an email or we can schedule 10 minutes later this week to discuss it.”

    Asserting your unavailability and then taking control of the situation is the key, here. Never leave the time-sucking fiend at a loss for what to do next; instead, offer an option or two (never more) so they feel like their issue will be addressed. But never back down – your time is yours, as long as you treat it as such.

    2. The humorless hellhound

    The humorless hellhound didn’t quite follow the joke you made at lunch today, and wants you to know it! Besides taking up your time, the humorless hellhound sucks the fun out of life, demanding an explanation of every off-hand comment you or anyone else makes, and complaining about being made the butt of a joke by someone else. They’d never get offended and confront the person who offended them – that’s what everyone else is for!

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    Be firm with the humorless hellhound – simply say “It wasn’t important” and steer the conversation back to topics of substance or, if there are none, walk away. Neither defend nor condemn others with whom the humorless hellhound has a problem; your only response should be “Take it up with them”.

    Note: Often people who make offensive remarks hide behind the mask of humor (very often these people are vacuous horrors; see below), attempting to deflect attention from their own offensiveness by saying “aw, it was just a joke!” Those who stand up to jerks like that are certified Van Helsings, not humorless hellhounds. Learn to tell the difference – it could save your life!

    3. The vacuous horror

    The vacuous horror is an idiot, and he or she doesn’t care who knows it. Their pleasures are simple: drink to excess, bed hot chicks or dudes, get sooooo high, play their music sooooo loud, party sooooo hard. Or at least talk about those things – and talk, and talk, and talk talk talk. They don’t want your time, or not just your time, they want your attention – and somehow, your jealousy, as if you should envy their pseudo-wannabe-MTV lives.

    The silver bullet here is to tell them it all sounds pretty lame, but of course, nobody uses silver bullets. Too fatal. After all, you kind of feel sorry for them, all shriveled and naked and weak – they’re like children. Stupid, nasty children, but children nonetheless. Your best bet, then, is to treat them as blood-sucking fiends, carefully limiting their access and steering them towards matters of more substance. A curt “Yeah, that sounds great. Listen, I’ve got to get going…” might be called for if they just won’t pass on to the next world, though…

    4. The detail demon

    While attention to detail is important, the detail demon isn’t concerned with making sure things work, he or she is concerned with a thousand minor points that have no significance or bearing on anything outside of her or his decomposing mind. The detail demon wants to discuss the pros and cons of the serial comma in the corporate stylebook, and s/he wants to discuss it now. For a really, really, really long time.

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    Fortunately, the detail demon is easily dispatched. Like the time-sucking fiend, under no circumstances give the detail demon any control over your time! Instead, ask them to write up an itemized list of their concerns and email it to you (or otherwise deliver it) so you can review them thoroughly. Since most of their concerns will not matter much, you can usually just give them a simple “go ahead” on the changes they suggest; anything of actual importance they bring up actually does need to be addressed, so they’ve just saved you some time! Turning the vampire’s power against them – that’s ninja-level stuff!

    Who’s haunting your house?

    These four aren’t the only vampires prowling the streets and hallways of our lives. For the good of your fellow Lifehack readers, what other kinds of vampires have you run into lately? And more importantly, how did you vanquish these foul, foul beasts? The future of all our productivity may depend on you!

    (Happy Halloween!)

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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