“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full,” Henry Kissinger is reputed to have said. We all know that feeling.
This has been one of those weeks where I have been scared to pick up the phone because there is just no room for any more things to go wrong. When I start to feel scared of my mobile, I know it’s the signal to start asking myself some serious questions.
Well, just one actually. The question. Mastering the question can slash your stress overnight. It was taught to me by my first boss, a frightening woman called Tricia. While I was on the phone/tapping at my keyboard/saving a colleague’s life by skilful use of the Heimleich manoeuvre, she was liable to break off what she was doing and bellow across the office: “Wilson, is that the best use of your time?”
She wasn’t being a bitch, (OK she was, but she wasn’t just being a bitch). The only way she coped with multiple demands was to constantly re-evaluate whether her current task was the “best use of her time”. And if it wasn’t, it was lobbed onto the desk of a minion PDQ.
She was always working on her top priority – and she taught me to do the same.
Not all the time, of course. Rarely is Googling “how much to buy my own island?” the best use of your time when your bank balance is £82.76, as mine currently is. But on days like this, when such lighthearted fun is only a distant memory and finding time for a shower is a challenge, the question is invaluable. It is there to remind me that discussing the lack of parking space at Tesco with my nice-but-dull colleague is not the best use of my time. It’s there to goad me into making my excuses pronto.
Exercise the question like a karate chop. It will be a good friend to you when life goes pear-shaped. The only downside is that you might never get round to buying that island off Rhum.
Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor and author of Stress Proof Your Life (Infinite Ideas, £12.99)