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Creative Problem Solving: Keep the Cow Out of the Ditch

by Jenny Hansen

Photo by Cellar Door Films ~ WANA Commons

Photo credit: Cellar Door Films

Harvey Mackay is one of my favorite columnists because he always makes me think about multiple topics. For example, I might go to him for a business lesson and, instead, a family or life lesson.

Case in point: one of my co-workers sent me Mackay’s last column, Mastering the Art of Managing. It’s got some great bullet points on managing a team at the bottom of the post and made for a good team-building lesson.

However, this is NOVEMBER. November is the fullest month of the year for me.

Besides Thanksgiving, there’s my birthday and, this year, a family vacation. That means balancing more roles than usual, including home healthcare nurse to a sick toddler. Plus I had a double ear infection earlier this month.

That’s a lot of balls in the air.

The part that grabbed my attention (important part in blue):

…Anne Mulcahy, former Chairman and CEO of Xerox, was asked by Fortune Magazine what was the best advice she had ever received in business. She said it occurred at a breakfast meeting in Dallas, to which she had invited a group of business leaders.

One of them, a plainspoken, self-made, streetwise guy, came up to Mulcahy and said:

When everything gets really complicated and you feel overwhelmed, think about it this way. You gotta do three things. First, get the cow out of the ditch. Second, find out how the cow got into the ditch. Third, make sure you do whatever it takes so the cow doesn’t go into the ditch again.”

Talk about a great epiphany as we go into the holidays! I’ve got big ‘ol bovines cluttering up my life all over the place!! (i.e. Crap I’ve been wasting my time on that I can put off until next year, or better yet, just get off my plate forever.)

Those bovines are freezing my productivity with more worrying than doing.

But which cow is the biggest problem? The cow in the ditch needs to take first priority, right?

I realized as I thought about the post that I see ALL of my cows in the ditch. I have a hard time figuring out which one is the most important cow. (Yes, it made me laugh to write that.) I’ve realized I often try to put out all my fires at the same time and get nothing more than frustration for my efforts.

As my hubby said, “Don’t try to feed the cows in the barn while you’ve got a cow in the ditch.”

To turn that lesson around I had the following talk with myself:
“What do you HAVE to do this month? Start there and prioritize outward. What about doing one ‘have to’ task each day?”

I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Right after I work my way through my massive case of Turkey Block.

What is the biggest cow in your personal ditch? Is it an internal problem or an external one? What problem solving tips do you have to share? Continue the discussion at the #SocialIn hashtag on Twitter or SocialInDC on Facebook!

~ Jenny
@JennyHansenCA

 

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

© 2013 Jenny Hansen. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.


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