I’ll never forget the day I first heard about this one. The principle behind it is rather simple. In fact, as a time management hack it’s about as uncomplicated as they come. But do it right, and it will dramatically increase your ability to diffuse stress and accomplish more than you would have ever thought possible on any given day.
So let’s talk about the… The Turd Principle.
It isn’t an acronym. There’s basically only one thing you need to memorize. Think of every task and request you’re given as a turd. Naturally you don’t want it sitting around on your hands or ripening in your pockets.
In fact your natural reaction, keeping the errant poo as far away from your person as possible, is the way to go here. The idea is to keep the majority of turds out of your life until your involvement is an absolute necessity. One of the biggest struggles of adult life is the feeling of gradually being snowed in. There are too few hours in the day and too many tasks gradually burying us at our work.
The thing most people don’t realize is that most of the tasks we’re given, whether by coworkers, or families, or friends are tasks that typically DO NOT require your involvement. For instance if an employee were to bound enthusiastically into your office and ask for your help on spearheading a new project that will make the company a small fortune…
You’re faced with two choices. You can 1) hand hold them through the entire process and thereby invest yourself into holding that turd for the foreseeable future. Or 2) send it back their way for more processing…”I like where you’re going with this. What steps are you taking to make this happen?”. Returning the turd in this case, saves you a TON of bandwidth. You go from having to get your hands very dirty, and pushing other priorities, to simply reducing your role to a quick review of the finished plan.
How to spot a turd.
The trick then is learning which turds need to be pocketed and which ones you can hand off. Here are a few quick and dirty rules:
- Is it my wheelhouse? You see this ball dropped all the time in small or rapidly growing businesses. People who are very good at X, being forced to do Y because there aren’t enough people on hand.
If you want stress out of your life, you must avoid taking on too many turds that don’t cater to your strengths. Is Dan in IT going to be able to troubleshoot the malfunctioning flotilla of spyware that your boss calls her laptop? Is the new intern you hired going to be the better choice for unloading the latest delivery of supplies?
Sometimes the answer is going to be no. You’ll have to take on the task yourself. But more often than not, you can pass the turd on to someone who won’t see it as such. That’s when you know you’re on the right track
- Is it something I enjoy or need to learn? I should add again that this isn’t a game of ‘delegate everything’. Some tasks you need to pick up in order to grow as a professional or a person. If you love doing it, if you know you’d like a career in it, if you NEED to get better at it, and most importantly of all, if you have the time…
Then do it. This is the kind of turd you should be willing to harbor. If it isn’t…shoot it over to someone who doesn’t think of it as a turd. Been asked to babysit but horrible with children? Maybe your baby crazy Aunt Ruth would be interested in lending her aid…
- What are the stakes? What happens if things go wrong? Is it something we can easily recover from if mistakes are made, or does it require expert time and attention every step along the way.
If it’s low pressure, low stakes, and especially if the deadline is far off into the horizon…there’s nothing wrong with lobbing the turd back from whence it came.
There’s more than one way to save yourself time and the frustration of an insane schedule… and if turd references aren’t your thing…you may want to check out >> this <<.
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