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Use and Abuses of Jargon

Use and Abuses of Jargon

In “Death Sentences: How Cliches, Weasel Words and Management-Speak Are Strangling Public Language,” Don Watson shows how business BS-speak is invading everything from public schools to churches. An article in Newsweek magazine called “Attack of the Weasel Words,” includes and interview with the author. In it, Watson says:

“We are all customers. Even the CIA talks about having internal clients. I’m quite sure that in another iteration, the Army will talk about enemy clients. Once they decide we’re all customers then the consequences for basic relationships in civil society are not good. I think the old civilities will do, and I don’t know why we all have to be customers, let alone valued customers. It’s even gotten into religion. St. Martin-in-the-Fields [the Anglican church] in London now has a two-point mission statement out front on the wall. Their first point is the duty to God and Christian charity and the second is to provide excellence in hospitality. For [centuries] they’ve been doing charity and now it’s “excellence in hospitality.”

Watson believes people have decided to live in an economy, not a society, and this vague, overblown language has become so commonplace in people’s professional lives they bring it home with them too.

Jargon is addictive. It’s also useful and harmless in its place. That place is among people who share a defined skill or expertise. Within skilled or professional groupings from doctors to plumbers, jargon is a sensible way to discuss things that apply to their sphere of knowledge. Where you can’t explain what you mean succinctly in ordinary language, a special term everyone within that grouping understands becomes essential. As far back as Biblical shepherds and beyond, special terms like “wethers” (castrated male sheep) have been used and accepted. If a doctor speaks to another medic about vasodilation, both know exactly what’s meant.

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The problem we suffer from today, in business and elsewhere, is the use of jargon and consulting BS by people who neither know what they mean precisely, nor expect those they’re speaking to understand them. Indeed, that’s often the point: to use language that you hope makes you sound like an expert before a non-expert audience. It’s become associated with business consultants because so many of that breed pretend to knowledge they don’t have. It’s known as “keeping one step ahead of the client.” As long as you know a fraction more than your client, you’re the expert.

Politics, with its “spin doctors” and PR spokespeople, is another prime source of the spreading tendency to use language to disguise or confuse. So is the need for politicians to hide lazy thinking or addiction to special interests. Since the media are drenched in pundits pretending to knowledge and politicians trying to sound good, while saying nothing dangerous, it’s hardly surprising business-speak and consulting BS is spreading like a pandemic.

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The answer lies in your hands and mine. If we refuse to accept weasel words from others and insist on saying what we mean in plain terms, even marketers (some of the worst offenders) will stop drenching us in BS. It’s because they think consumers are taken in by meaningless claims to be “customer-centric” or “quality driven” that they use these terms. Talk is cheaper than doing anything to improve quality or service. It’s time we made it clear that we’re expensive, and the currency they must use to buy our attention isn’t management-speak or BS. It’s honest, understandable language backed up by clear action.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within and Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the fun and satisfaction to management work.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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