Home » The Progressive Professional – Tips for Quality Living – September 2012

The Progressive Professional – Tips for Quality Living – September 2012

In our last issue, we looked at Life Balance and how to take control of our lives through five steps. This quarter, we look at more ways to streamline what we do with our time and our life. “Why”, you ask? Because as we mature, we lose that inquisitiveness we all had when we were four. Do you remember those days? Or, as a parent, have you experienced them more recently? Four-year-olds tend to want to know the “why” behind everything. I remember walking through the grocery with my child and the endless questions: “Why can’t we buy that? “ “Why do we need money?” “Why does that lady have red hair?” “Why do we need to buy vegetables?” “Why can’t I get this toy?” The questions were her way of learning. How sad that as we get older, we often stop learning by asking “why”. We simply fall into a routine that is actually limiting our ability to do many of the things that we want to do.

The Five Why’s is a technique used in process improvement to identify the root cause. You simply keep asking “why” and digging deeper into the issue until you understand the underlying problem. Then, you can address the real problem, not the symptoms of the problem. Five is a guideline – sometimes it only takes two or three; sometimes it takes seven or eight.

So how can you use this technique to improve your quality of life? Here are four steps to take:

Step 1 – Look at the processes that make up your life and you use every day – waking up, making breakfast, getting ready for work, getting the kids off to school, exercising, running errands, laundry, etc. All of these things represent repeatable tasks. Many are things that you do regularly and which, in many cases, have become strong habits. Pick one.

Step 2 – Ask yourself “why” – Why do I do this? Why is this important to me? Why do it this way? Why do I need to do this at all? Why do I spend my time on this?

Step 3 – Once you understand if this task is really necessary, determine how often you need to do it or, if someone else can do it or, if you can let it go or, do it differently or, just stop.

Step 4 – Practice your new process / routine for a month – it will become a great new habit and won’t be painful at all. You may even find it freeing!

Enter the Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers. As young adults, they haven’t outgrown the questioning. They want to know why they need to come to an office when they can work more efficiently at home. They want to know why they need to work 40 hours in a week if they can complete their work in thirty. They want to know why they need to dress professionally when they never see a customer. They want to know why they should work on things that don’t match the organization’s strategic goals. They want to know why we don’t recognize that the answers to almost everything can be found on the internet.

Are those of us from prior generations missing something? While many of us have been focused on our career, supporting an organization, nurturing a family and following the rules, the world may have passed us by. Our children and our grandchildren are living in a very different world. They don’t need the separation of work and life that many of us seek. They like being connected electronically 24 / 7 and if they are doing work they like and feeling valued, they truly love work. And, if they don’t, they will move on to another place that fits better with their values and what’s important to them.

What can we learn from this? Become the inquisitive 4-year old again – what does that mean? Ask “why” at every turn… As you look at all the things you spend time on and make decisions on, what’s most important, simply ask “why”… Why is this important to me? Why do I feel this way? Why can I let this go? Why can’t I let this go? As you go through your routine, think about where you want to be spending your time and find the things that you can change or eliminate. I look forward to hearing how you are spending your newly found free time!

To read more articles by Pam Nintrup, click here.

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