They say, especially politicians, we should never change horses midstream. I completely disagree. For one, we are always midstream. When in life do we have an opportunity to stop, sit down and consider making sweeping change? It just doesn’t happen. Life continues on around us; we have to keep moving.
Change, however, must be made, and rarely is it convenient. One key, I believe, is to avoid unnecessary change. For many years, I have taught classes on Task Management and Personal Productivity. I espouse using a task management system to keep track of all the things we must do. I have have helped dozens set up a systems, ranging from paper to electronic. I have used too many systems and devices to count. Many hours and countless dollars came out of the family budget in search of the perfect system, for which I thank my patient wife. Along the way, I have learned a few things about making change.
- Don’t make a change just because something new comes along. Shiny doesn’t equate to good. “New” is not a reason to make a change. Resist the temptation. Often “new” has a lot of marketing hype and needs time to mature before it is ready to be part of a trusted system. Yes, there are exceptions, but not often.
- Only make a change when there is a specific reason. I have changed systems so many times, I can’t count. The more successful attempts have always had an underlying reason attached, such as when I finally made the shift from paper to electronic. Instead of finding a cool, sexy device, I looked for something that would help me not have to rewrite my daily task list every day when I didn’t get it completed. Once I shifted my focus to a particular goal, the correct tool appeared and the shift was easy and lasting.
- Make the change quickly and completely. Kind of like ripping a Band-Aid off, just get it over with. Spend a few hours making the conversion and then don’t look back. If it drags out over several days, your subconscious will go nuts trying to remember which system contains the information necessary. Copy the data over as quickly as possible. Yes, the organization won’t be perfect and some time will be necessary for adjustment, but adapt in one tool, not two.
- Get advice from those who use the target tool before making the jump. People love to share their experiences. Try to find a mix of people who currently use the target as well as those who no longer use it. This second group can often be some of the most helpful, since there was a reason they left. Ask to see how things are set up and working (or not). Learning from others will reduce the number of bad choices and increase the speed of conversion to good ones.
- Give it time, but don’t hesitate too long to jump back if it was a bad move. Not every change is a good one. While we have to give ourselves time to adjust to the differences, don’t live with a bad choice very long. In task management systems, it will become apparent rapidly, often within just a few days. If it isn’t providing the desired results, go back. It won’t take very long to reactivate the old system if it is just a few days stale. If it is a few months, well, it may be best to start over.
Change is not easy, but with a little planning and foresight, it can be well worth the trauma. After all, it is how we improve. Following these four points can help ensure any change will result in greater speed and reduced turmoil