Wednesday May 31, 2023

Practicality: My Personal Philosophy

I am a practicality junkie in life and in business. I hate it when things are made more complicated than they need to be. People often miss the beauty (and the serenity) that embracing the practical brings. We live in a complex world. There are apps, websites, and books that teach us 1001 methodologies to do pretty much anything. And then there are the “gurus” of said methodologies who believe that only their method will bring you peace and prosperity. Of course, then you have their converts. For the most part, I’m a very live and let live sort of person. If you love to complicate things (in your own life and not in the lives of others), do your thing.

Practicality Seems Dead

In fact, working from home affords me with the opportunity to meet and work with people from all kinds of industries and backgrounds. Because of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for the most part, practicality is dead. That makes me sad because busy doesn’t necessarily equate to productive. It just means you’ve found a way to not have to deal with yourself during a quiet time. It just means you need a way to waste your time.

Practicality Helps You Become More Productive

Practicality helps you become more productive because it improves how you use your time. Think about this: how many times during your professional career have you been a mandatory attendant / participant in a meeting that really didn’t have shit to do with you? You had at least 10 other things you could have done with your time. Going to the meeting was impractical on your part…especially if you aren’t involved in the project or the information could have been handled in a group chat through Trello or Slack or an email. Of course, the impracticality in that situation was sort of forced upon you.

And for some reason, people just will not let meetings die. Most organizers and presenters have no clue how to just discuss what’s on their agenda within a short amount of time. No. There are 1600 side notes and “this will just take another minute.” Meanwhile, you’re growing frustrated and ready to stab yourself in the ear with a pencil.

Practicality is, ultimately, about choosing the simplest (and best) way to get from point A to point B in your life or with a project. It means it takes less time because you’re not going through unnecessary steps. Even if projects or a life situation is complicated, a little practicality goes a long way.

Practical decision making, daily planning, and executing projects based on a common sense approach (with the audience or recipient in mind) keep my world rocking along. I added this because I get asked on an almost daily basis how I manage to do what I do while taking care of my family. Well, now you know. Keep shit as simple as you can.

Who Decides What’s Practical?

So, who decides what’s practical in any given situation? The decision maker. I once had a client who initially asked me for one meeting per week (using Slack) for about 15 minutes. That 15 minutes grew to an hour…primarily because he liked to tell me just how busy he was. Meanwhile, his various projects were just sitting on my desk untouched. That one meeting eventually grew to four because he wanted to add me to “teams” so that I knew what other people were doing on their own projects. Except…I didn’t work with those people on my assigned projects. So, there was no need for me to be involved. Initially, one of those meetings was on Wednesdays in the late afternoon. That was fine. Then he changed it because it was “hard” for him. I told him my mother had her appointments scheduled the third Wednesday of the month in the mornings. He knew this when the initial late afternoon meeting was scheduled. And one day, he got quite upset that I wasn’t available at 11 am. He did not want to reschedule. He wanted what he wanted…and ultimately, I stopped working with him. He spent a minimum of 6 hours each week in various meetings. If you work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, you work 40 hours. So, six hours is almost 1/5 of your time…and the total of 3 to 4 hours each week he wanted me in meetings, he wasn’t paying me. He was an example of how what seemed practical to him was actual extremely impractical for everyone else. Because we couldn’t agree on the definition of what was practical, we couldn’t work together.

When it comes to work projects, it is extremely important that you and your client are on the same page. For day to day business decisions and for your own business methodologies, you decide what is practical. Keep in mind that this isn’t about quick fixes. It’s about making practical decisions to stay in control of your time and your schedule.

For your personal life, practicality is determined by you and by the needs of your family. It is impractical for me to think I’m going to get much of anything done on Tuesday afternoons (right now). However, there are some weeks (like this one) that I need every ounce of time that I can scrape up. So, a practical decision for me is to work in the morning and then to work in the evening after dinner. Sometimes, I’ll end up working until late at night…but that is the practical solution for me.

Tips on How to Be More Practical

I know it can be hard to embrace the concept of being more practical in a world where there are methods to help you be more productive. Here are some easy to implement tips on how to be more practical:

  • Schedule your day. Yes, really. That’s the most practical thing you can do. If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. No, you don’t have to schedule every minute of your day. You do need to know what your objectives are for each day and the best time to accomplish those objectives.
  • Know when you’re most productive. Working on anything when you’re at your most productive will give you more focus and you’ll get things done faster. Save your most pressing projects for that time.
  • Don’t over-complicate anything. If you really want to be practical (and have more time), stop over-complicating things. Your day (and the day of your family) doesn’t have to have every minute scheduled. In fact, if you look for complicated ways to do things, you should probably reassess your anxiety, your need for total control, and learn how to be more comfortable in your own down time. And you need to teach your children how to be comfortable in their down time. Think about efficiency. Practicality is all about efficiency.


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