Have you ever had one of those days where you knew you had an unpleasant task to take care of but didn’t want to do it? It may have been a call to return with an unhappy client. Maybe an uncomfortable conversation with an employee. Perhaps it was a sales call that you were terrified of.
If you’re like me (or most people for that matter) you probably lost sleep the night before and once at work, began to barricade your time with busywork that would occupy every corner of the day and prevent you from the task. If you did this correctly, you could honestly say that you would have made that call or had that conversation but were slammed with crisis after crisis. That bought you some peace, until you came home and realized that unpleasant item would now be waiting for you the next morning…only now the situation would be even more difficult to deal with.
Pain avoidance is normal. Most of us hate pain and our nature is to do anything to never have it. Sadly, avoiding just won’t work in most cases. I’ve learned over time that the best way to deal with it is to use a variation of one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for guidance.
In 1989, Stephen Covey authored one of the most popular business books of all time,
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In this book, he detailed principles for personal and professional success. One of them, First Things First, was clear guidance for priority and time management. I modified that one into:
Worst Things First
Like ripping off a Band-Aid, eating your Brussels sprouts first, or doing things like making the scary call or having that dreaded conversation, getting stuff out of the way is the best way to power through. The longer an uncomfortable task is avoided, the harder it will be to recover from it.
Years ago, when stationed overseas at NAVCOMMSTA Harold E. Holt in Western Australia I befriended a group of SEABEES, the Navy construction folks that ran the public works department on base. Their division officer was universally hated by the group and after enduring him for two years, they came up with a fitting farewell gift. The night before his car was crated to be sent on the two-month journey back to the States, they stuffed a bag of fish heads under the front seat. Imagine what that would have smelled like when he retrieved it?
That’s what happens the longer one of your uncomfortable goes unaddressed. Fish heads are nasty, but it’s better to handle them on Day 1 then on Day 60.
This week, think about those “fish head” tasks you’ve been avoiding. Why not get busy doing the Worst Things First and free up your time, energy, and emotional health?