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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

Anyone Up For A Game Of Whack-A-Mole?

Have you noticed that we live in a world full of reactions? In fact, in this digital world where everyone has instant access to information, sometimes it seems that “over reaction” is becoming the norm.

It doesn’t matter if the information is true, untrue or half-true we often over-react as if it’s all true. There are so many opinions and new ideas coming at us from the moment we open our eyes in the morning that by the time we are finally able to go to bed, half the time we can’t sleep because we are so overwhelmed with all of the data we process in a single day.

It seems to me that this constant, and unavoidable, data feed creates a situation similar to the old carnival game of “whack-a-mole.” This old game begins with about six empty holes. Once the game begins, a little mole starts popping out of different holes at random times. The object of the game is to “whack” the mole on the head so he will disappear again. However, as soon as you whack one, another one pops up, and the game continues.

Watching people participate in this game provides an interesting study on how our brains deal with stress and pressure. For example, some people start screaming and feverishly pounding on the top of the machine with the little mallet without paying any attention to what they are hitting. Instead, they just swing as fast as they can, and they hit whatever they hit.

Other players get very quiet and wait patiently for each mole to pop up. These more patient players only swing at known targets.

Either approach can yield results, but there are disadvantages to both. Wildly swinging at things can waste energy and cause collateral damage to everything and everyone around you! On the other hand, while waiting for each mole to pop up is a more efficient use of energy and not as dangerous to your surroundings, it can seem very slow and frustrating because you must wait for the mole to appear.

Does anyone out there feel like I just described what you do all day, every day? It seems like for many of us, each workday is one long frustrating game. Everyday we are asked to do more. Everyday, there are more moles popping up at random intervals. We don’t know when they will appear, and we don’t know where.

The question is, how are you dealing with the pressure that increases with every new task, every new request, every new idea? Are you wildly swinging at everything as fast as you can so that you can complete everything, or are you completing only a handful of what lands on your desk because that handful was all you had time to hit? Either approach can cause problems.

The good news about most of our personal “whack-a-mole” games is that if you invest a little time studying them, there are patterns in what we do. If you learn the patterns, you can become the player that knows which “mole” is going to “pop up” next and actually “whack” him while he’s on the way up. You can stop reacting to the job and become proactive instead.

But, you may ask, how do I figure out the pattern?

They say experience is the best teacher—the more you do certain tasks, for example, the more likely you will be to “figure out” some of the patterns inherent in those tasks. Similarly, the more you work with certain people, the more likely you will be to figure out the most successful ways of interacting with them.

But some of your success at managing these random “moles” that keep popping up can actually be achieved with good time management skills. Example: If you know you are going to get a call from a particular client everyday at some random time, take control of that situation so that it is no longer random. Call them early when you are ready for the call and have your information in front of you. Give them the info they want before they ask instead of waiting for them to ask for it. Do it on your schedule so you are not resetting and restarting constantly due to interruptions.

Set appointments for yourself to take care of certain tasks at certain times so that you control more of your time versus allowing others to do it for you. Just remember that in order to do this, you have to start anticipating what needs to happen next—in other words, you have to learn which mole is popping up next so you are no longer just reacting to someone else’s schedule or decision.

This skill, this ability to be proactive, is not easy—it will require commitment on your part and, even when you master it, it will not make all your problems go away. What it will do is give you the ability to handle more “moles” more efficiently and with less frustration.

We live in a world in which a ten second response time from the Internet is too long. We live in a world in which text messages and emails arrive in clusters of twenty and thirty an hour. Your coworkers and employees, customers and friends, even and especially, your family, all want some of your time. They are constantly “popping up” to get your attention.

So when you begin to feel overwhelmed and find yourself swinging the proverbial mallet as fast as you can, hoping to hit something, take a breath and remember that you have a choice. With experience and careful planning, you don’t have to keep swinging as fast as you can, you can be in control and only swing when you decide it’s time—it’s up to you.

If you need help with this or anything else, contact us today. We can help make your company more profitable, more efficient, and even more fun. or (832)356-4585

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