How to Stuff an Octopus Into a Suitcase

If you shut your eyes for a second and visualise this, a person trying to stuff an octopus into a suitcase. Arms going everywhere, a few arms go in and then others come out, trying to close the lid, it is just not going to happen. Have you ever been so busy that you feel like this could be you, or are there people in your office that are like this all the time?

In a world where we are always trying to do more and more with less and less, multi-tasking and prioritising is only part of the solution. For some, learning when to say “Yes” or “No” is a key skill yet to be developed, and how to do this while managing expectations can sometimes be difficult. For others, just straight forward organising to get the basics done can be a challenge.

Simon 2A key skill to master is being able to differentiate between things that are urgent and/or important, as well as filtering requests from others on a similar basis. The old saying “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine” isn’t far from the truth, however delivering this response in a supportive frame is the key to a successful outcome.

Here are some tips on how you could go about avoiding the octopus:

  • Plan your time. Make use of your calendar to schedule your day and encourage others to do the same. Use the scheduled events to assess whether new requests are more important or more urgent than the ones you already have scheduled before you just say yes or no.
  • Contain the panic. Everything seems urgent and important when an issue is being filtered by panic. Panic is often irrational from the outsiders perspective, but truly rational from the person who is doing the panicking. You can help by working through the fear, ask the questions of what will and won’t happen if you do or don’t do something, this is often a good place to start.
  • Share the load. There is nothing wrong with getting others to help you or when you see someone else struggling offer some assistance. Creating an environment where collaboration and sharing is part of your day to day way of operating will add value way beyond just getting tasks done.
  • Manage expectations. It is important to understand the expectations of those around you. Be clear about what success or winning looks like. That way, when work on an outcome, it is clear whether you have completed the task successfully or not. There is nothing worse that coming up with an awesome solution you have spent lots of time on, only to find it solves a problem no-one is interested in or worse still you have missed the mark completely.

Written by Simon Cohn (Managing Director)