The idea of a one-touch policy comes from a major professional mentor of mine, who still happens to be what I call my “superboss.” My manager’s superior and at the second tier in our organization.
He’s amazing in all sorts of ways. First off, he’s a great person, and thus it has been wonderful to work for him and learn from him for the past ten years. He has a touch with people, with understanding their needs and communicating with incredible tact, on top of a serious knack for organization and critical thinking. He manages to operate at multiple levels, switch gears between a bazillion responsibilities, all in the midst of an insanely booked calendar — and he also manages to have a life on top of it all. Volunteer firefighter, active in his church, a parent and husband.
In the first weeks of my employment, his administrative assistant shared a tip of his with me: Use a one-touch policy. If a task will only take a few minutes, don’t add it to the to-do list, just do it right now.
Here’s an example. As I sat down to write this, I noticed that one leg of my chair at the dining room table where I often write was wiggly. Actually, I’d noticed it three days running. Today, I turned the darn chair upside down and tightened things up. If I’d done that two days ago, I wouldn’t have broken my writing stride three times over the same tiny detail. (Some of you might laugh at me for this example…my husband isn’t laughing, let me tell you. There are some details that skate by my notice again and again, making me a bit hard to live with at times…I know you love me, babe, even if I’m frustrating!)
Sure, this applies to lots of physical parts of our daily lives. But it also applies to your writing life. When you notice something wrong, just fix it. Receive the details on a promotion you’ll need to schedule on your blog? Draft the new post right now. Notice you haven’t updated your blog? Just update it. Right then. You can spare the three or four minutes to do so…because the truth is that if you don’t, you’re going to have to think about it again tomorrow. If you don’t just do it, you’ll end up spending much more time on it cumulatively than if you’d just taken the few minutes to correct the problem, solve the issue, or add the detail.
This is part of what I meant by the subtitle of this series — “don’t let it own you.” Because these tiny things we need to accomplish, which add up and are crucial to our eventual success as creative professionals, can suck us dry with their taskiness. (Yes, I know that’s not a word. I am using it anyway.) They can end up owning us by chaining us to that never-ending to-do list. When you save up these dry and boring tasks by adding them to a to-do list, you’re asking to be bored with your writing time. Don’t do that to you!
By only touching it once, by not letting the topic leave your brain-space until it’s done and never letting it add to the dreaded to-do list, you will save major time over the years. Not to mention saving on brain clutter and reducing the items on your to-do list. Just do it. Use a one-touch policy.
For a full list of Own Your Writing Career posts in the order they were written, visit my Writers page. I’ll be back with another Own Your Writing Career post next Thursday. Until then, happy writing!!
“Own Your Writing Career: Use a One Touch Policy” copyright © 2015 by J.R. Pearse Nelson