The Blog.

Is your workaround creating more work?

2 Feb 2015 | Clarity & Focus, Tips, tools, tricks

We have some friends we usually do dinner with. One week we’ll go to them, the next week they’ll come to us. It’s a little family tradition we’ve had for several years. 

When I’m working away that doesn’t happen, so last Friday I was looking forward to finishing early, picking the kids up from school and getting stuck into whipping up a batch of homemade meatballs and spaghetti, and cheesecake from scratch.

I enjoy cooking, and usually it’s one of my favourite ways to relax.

But last Friday I found myself getting irate. I kept having to stop, to move things out of the way – baking trays from during the week, breakfast bowls that had somehow evaded the dishwasher, something that had been left to soak in the sink…

(Interesting, this doesn’t tend to happen if I’ve had full reign of the kitchen all week, or if I’ve been away and hubby’s been in charge. Somehow, when we’re both here, things seem to pile up – but that’s a post for another day…)

Every time I needed to use something, I had to either clear the space or wash it first, which meant clearing the sink, which meant clearing the draining board, which meant washing my hands…

Every step I wanted to take involved doing another 3 steps beforehand. It sure wasn’t relaxing.

Eventually I had enough. Stopped what I was doing, donned the rubber gloves and cleared the whole kitchen. Chucked all the recycling that was hanging around, put away the clean dishes, washed the dirty ones, cleared all the surfaces – all while muttering under my breath and letting things land in the sink with a bit more ‘clang’ than usual.

When I finally got the kitchen back to a usable state, I looked at my watch to see how much later dinner was going to be.

Five minutes.

That’s all it took. Five minutes to clear the decks, instead of goodness knows how long of stopping and starting, tripping over stuff, trying to squeeze myself into tiny spaces and getting frustrated.

Amazing how some things can seem so big – and cause such big disruptions – and yet take so little time to actually clear.

Have you ever driven a car with the smallest viewing window you can possibly get away with, when it would have only taken 5 minutes to fully clear the ice or de-mist the windscreen?

Where are you doing that in your work? What are you working around, that’s slowing you down, breaking your flow and creating more work for you?

  • That pile of paperwork that you keep shifting
  • That 2 minute job that nags at you several times a day
  • The person who keeps interrupting you with the same questions
  • The email you keep having to rewrite, that you keep meaning to save as a template
  • That mental checklist you keep having to reconstruct

What’s the stuff you keep working around? What would happen if you stopped and gave it your full focus for five minutes and cleared it out of the way?

Give it a try – and let me know how you get on!


  1. Richard Tubb

    Another thought provoking blog post Grace — thanks for sharing! I’d agree that preparing the work area (or “clearing the decks”) is often time well spent in reducing distractions and frustrations. To this day I’m still amazed how much mental energy can be wasted on neglecting those small half-finished jobs too — nagging away at you and distracting you from the job in hand!

    • Grace Marshall

      So true Richard, those nags steal so much headspace and attention!

  2. katherinemacey

    Just like Stephen Covey says, “Sharpen the saw” which I take, in a broad way, to mean make everything work the best way it can, which includes clearing stuff out of the way to work super fast on what is left!

    Just read your post in the Productive Mag: Love that too. I definitely only use “but” when I actually mean it!

    Have you tested taking out the word “try” from your vocab? The word often has connotations of only giving it a little bit of effort, not a full on, committed, absolutely no holds barred effort. See what happens when you take it out. It’s much more committing! Have fun with it!

    • Grace Marshall

      Ooh I like that. I hadn’t thought of ‘try’ – I tend to use it to mean ‘experiment’ so it doesn’t have to be perfect, or right, and you don’t have to be sure it works, just give it a go anyway. I like how you used ‘tested’ though.

      And of course it reminds me of Yoda: “Do… or do not. There is no try”

  3. Ali C-S

    I so feel you here! I took photo’s the other day of cleared decks for the next morning in the kitchen for a post with a similar theme to this. Yet to write…but yes clear spaces, mind and physical makes things so much easier. Clearing my mind would take so much more than 5 minutes so I stick to clearing the physical spaces for now!

    • Grace Marshall

      Even just writing it down can help towards clearing your mind. Or pick one thing that’s been nagging at you (write that post?) and get that out of the way. Enjoy!

  4. Bev Murrill

    Good point, Grace… definitely gets the job done. I’m reposting.

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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