Advertising
Advertising

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)

20091031-vampire

    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!!!

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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!

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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!)

    More by this author

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

    Trending in Featured

    1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 5 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Advertising

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Advertising

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    Advertising

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

    Advertising

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Read Next