4 Essential Skills for Stress-Free Planning
- Faulty delegation (either too
much or too little) spreads stress faster than an outbreak of flu in an office.
If you are in charge, it is your job to know how much you are going to do
yourself and how much is going to be delegated while the goal is being
achieved. Once delegated, how much supervision, if any, are you going to give
to the people to whom tasks have been delegated? What is their responsibility;
what's yours? One responsibility is inevitably yours: you must ensure that the
programm is on time and is running smoothly.
- Keep a diary. A good measure
of stress is to go through a diary for the last few weeks, working out how
often appointments have had to be moved, cancelled or cut short because the
diary has become over-filled. Make certain your diary commitments are
attainable. One of the greatest business tycoons of the century told me, and
showed me the proof that confirmed this, that he never did more than four hours
work in a day. Another successful company chief executive asked me to spend a
day with him. I was astounded. He went into the office before anyone else and
nosed around for an hour and a half. Later he met with all his departmental
heads to get a feel of how their departments were performing, gave his opinions
and orders and then left for the day. He reappeared in the late afternoon to
see how well his commands had been carried out, and where adjustments would be
needed. He and his secretary dealt with his own correspondence, he saw anyone
who had any problems, then he went home for an early gin and tonic. He was the
first British vice-president of this particular international organization ever
to become the overall chief executive in America. Diaries must always be
left with enough spare space so that there is time to cope with the unexpected.
Avoiding stress is often the ability to leave time for what Prime Minister
Harold Macmillan called 'events, events, events'.
- Take time off. Not just an
hour or two, but give yourself a treat occasionally. Take a day away from the
office. It doesn't matter what you do as long as it is to please yourself.
Visit the theatre if this is what you enjoy. Find anything that is different
from the normal routine, but make certain that nobody can trouble you and that
you are answerable to no one - family, colleagues or friends.
- Develop patience. One of the
advantages of national service was that the army taught you to curb impatience
and to wait without feeling irritation. The same lesson is essential for
budding politicians, or for anyone who hopes to command. As a backbencher once
said to me, parodying the title of an old film while we were waiting
interminably for a minister and filling in the time with a gin and tonic or
two, 'We also serve who only drink and wait.' Better than filling in time by
drinking gin is to use it gainfully. Carry a book with you and take every
opportunity to read it.
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