Sunday, September 2, 2012

Your Career and You: “Don’t Drive and Shave”

I was standing at my bus stop a few days ago waiting…and watching the traffic pass by. I’m always curious as to what the various drivers might be doing as they’re wending their way to work or wherever.

Quite a few were yacking on their phone (I won’t go down that little alleyway!). A couple were (somehow) reading something. Then a car rolls by.

I look at the driver…who’s not really focused on much outside his car. Why?

'Cuz he’s busy shaving!

Now this is nowhere as alarming as the fellow I saw once who was brushing his teeth as he drove along. Occasionally, when I’m having trouble sleeping, I spend a few minutes speculating on how he handled some of the more obvious aspects of tooth-brushing…

Back to the present…

Watching the shaving driver, I started thinking about how we have a tendency to jam as many tasks as possible into a finite amount of time. Some of my undergraduate Communication students at Curry College, where I head the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, as well as a few at Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, are budding masters of this “art.”

And I occasionally spend some time talking one or the other of these troops “off the ledge” as he or she goes into a virtual stress-driven meltdown.

We hear a lot about the importance of being able to "multitask," to do a gazillion things at the same time...and do them reasonably well. Multitasking is a valuable skill, but don't get too carried away!

Although the poet said…very wisely… “gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” he wasn’t talking about self-induced massive overload. He was more about “enjoy life,” etc.

Enjoying life means setting priorities and focusing on things in descending order of importance. For example, if you have a test in a class tomorrow morning and you haven’t read the chapters yet…read! Don’t settle in with a “cool beverage” to watch the Red Sox go down in flames…again.

On the other hand, don’t get lured into the “busy work” syndrome, either.

I’ve had the dubious pleasure of knowing folks who have figured this little jewel out…Keep something on the stove so that…in case you’re approached by a supervisor, co-worker…teacher…you can self-righteously say “Gee, I’d like to help but…” as you point pitifully at your desk.

The “secret” here is to find a balance in your life where you are able to take on and complete the tasks that you have to do while, at the same time, you accomplish the things that you would like to do.

It’s called “setting priorities,” and it involves some serious self-evaluation to determine what, of all the things buzzing around you, are the most important…the things that, if you don’t do them, life as you’ve come to know and enjoy it is going to quickly become unpleasant.

Once you’ve created that mental or physical list, then you turn to the “If I had more time, I’d like to…” things.

Step 3 in this is to actually stick with your list recognizing, of course, that occasionally something unplanned will bubble up to the top of the pile. But if you’ve done your homework (loving these school analogies!), you will be able to fit the “intruder” into your schedule and quickly recover.

And there you have it. Take control of your life…and don’t try to shave…or brush your teeth…while driving!

“More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies.” 
– Rudyard Kipling, “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” [1888]


  1. If you don't set priorities your minutia will overwhelm you.

    1. Very, very true, Skip, and my apologies for the delay in responding.

  2. I do not shave and drive as I have a beard. I do floss my teeth. My wife said the other day" Is that what you do when you drive?" I replied not the whole time I am driving...
    I see may students in class still multi tasking, with teh phone. I think it is the modern doodling which we did in our notebooks.

    I beleive set a goal. and accomplish that goal.

    1. Flossing's a little worrisome, but, hey, you do what you gotta do! Thanks for your feedback, and my apologies for the delay in responding.

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