I began getting my life in order by recognizing what order was. I narrowed it down to four parts: completing tasks in chronological order, arranging within boundaries, directing in an authoritative way, and making requests. This and the following three posts will explore each of these in more detail. Today, let’s tackle chronology!
Doing things in chronological or sequential order can be a key to success. It's the reason they make Lego® instruction manuals with numbers next to the pictures. Being mom to two boys, I’ve studied many a Lego® instruction manual (or “constructions” as my 6 year old calls them, and I never want to correct him, because it’s the cutest. I hope he calls them Lego® “constructions” until he’s 30!)
My kids are pretty self-sufficient at Lego® building, but occasionally there will be a frustrated, “Mo-om, I need help!” If they realize they missed a step only a couple of steps later, no big deal, they just take a few of the 2x4 bricks off, remove a tile here and there, add a plate with a clip, and then reassemble in the correct order. But…it usually doesn’t happen that way. Just the other day, I had to figure out why the wheels on a Lego® vehicle wouldn't turn - it was due to an oversight on step 2 of the “constructions.” I undid steps 7,6,5,4,3 and 2 and then redid them all. How much better would it have been if he would have asked for help on step 2?
Unfortunately, in Legos® and in life, we don’t usually feel the effects of doing things out of order until much later in the process. In the Lego® analogy, it’s when the tire won’t spin or the mini figure won’t fit in the cockpit or the critical weapon mechanism won’t fire. You have to tear the whole thing apart and add that one. little. tiny. piece to make that umpteenth plane or weapon-wielding fantasy ship look and function like the picture.
In life, there are things that we all do that have a definite requirement to complete tasks sequentially, but there are others that the steps can be done in parallel or in any order we choose. The key is to recognize ahead of time which tasks are dependent on others and which can be done at any time. Understanding that can help us to fill in the spaces in our schedules with tasks that can be done independent of other ones while saving tasks that must go together for a larger block of free time. This is why planning is such a valuable skill. Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, says, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” I think the reason this is true is because you’re not going back and deconstructing your Lego® ship, you’re simply taking time to lay out the pieces before you put them together.
Many of you are nodding your head in agreement, and then those really creative types are thinking, “I don’t need no stinkin’ directions – I’ll create something unique.” I agree that there is a time for creativity and that a “mistake” or a task done out of order can lead to creative problem solving which may result in a similar, or even better, end product. But that end product will be different than the original goal. If the task allows for that latitude – trash those “constructions” and go at it – or find a different task or project that gives you the freedom to skip around from step to step. Unfortunately for the free-spirited creatives, many of the tasks we face at home and at work, as well as those our kids will encounter at school, require more precision to achieve the desired outcome, and this is why planning and chronology are key!
Lego® Instruction Manual
Tracy, Brian. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. Oakland, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2017. Print.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!