Recently I came across an interesting word. Bikeshedding.
Well, it's more of a made-up word, but I thought it was pretty remarkable.
The story goes that the word originates from Parkinson's observation of a committee organized to approve plans for a nuclear power plant. As Parkinson noted, the committee devoted a disproportionate amount of time to relatively unimportant details – such as the materials for a bicycle storage shed – which limited the time available to focus on the design of the nuclear plant.
Don't think twice about wiping
You've all found yourself in a context where the people you are working with, spend a disproportionate amount of time bickering about the small stuff, all while the important things stand still.
My favourite example is from a previous company I worked for, where a disproportionate amount of time was spent on the discussion of whether it is appropriate to provide 2-ply toilet paper to the employees or not.
I mean really? Why would you waste your time on this discussion? Just buy the 2-ply and get back to work. After all, everyone knows a happy bum = productive employee 😉 and spending a few hundred extra each month is not going to make or break your company.
Why sweat the small stuff?
Why is it that we spend so much time on the small stuff? Why is it so compelling?
- It's easier to focus on the small stuff
- It's a form of procrastination
- It's a way to avoid responsibility
Choose to be ignorant - it's bliss
So we've discovered now that we waste a lot of time on the small stuff, and that we will inevitably find ourselves around people who sweat the small stuff.
So how do we remedy this? Be purposefully ignorant. Here's a quote I found applicable from one of my favourite authors Tim Ferriss:
How to do this in practice:
- Switch off your notifications on your phone/computer and focus on getting some deep work done.
- Limit social media usage - this is one of the worst time wasters and let's be honest, it really doesn't matter how it's going with Suzy's cats.
- If you have to use social media, cull the people you follow. Be selfish with your attention.
- Stop watching/reading the news. Most of it is sensationalism anyway and it achieves nothing but drive our blood pressure up.
- Try not watching/reading the news for a week and you'll realise it doesn't make any difference.
- Limit and streamline meetings - before agreeing to a meeting, ask yourself if it's really necessary and if the agenda could be handled in an email.
And that's it. I hope next time you're sweating the small stuff you remember reading this or maybe you need to forward it to a few colleagues.
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