Your first day at a new job is always interesting, but usually not life altering. I had one that was. I had just moved to Austin, Texas to start seminary. I was 22 years old and had been hired as the Youth Director at Hope Presbyterian Church. I went into the church office to fill out the required paperwork that first day and as I was leaving I asked the secretary for a key to the church. She looked through all of the drawers and couldn’t find one. “That’s fine – I don’t need it today,” I told her. Then the Head of Staff, Pastor Fred, walked by and she asked him, “Do we have any extra keys for the church? Robert needs one.” Fred started searching for an extra key and when he didn’t find one – he quickly grabbed the keys to his car and said, “If you have time, we can go take care of this right now.” Before I knew it – we were in his car going to have an extra key made. Life altering, right? Hold your horses – let me tell you about the conversation we had on our little voyage.
Fred told me that one of his life philosophies was, “When possible – only touch a thing once.” For instance, when an employee needs a key made – if you have the time – take care of it right then and there. If you open and read an e-mail – respond to that e-mail right then and there. If you listen to a message where somebody asks you to call them back – call them back right then and there. Fred explained to me that he uses this mantra in every aspect of his life, but then he paused and looked at me and said, but you must remember the first part – “When possible…”
So, life altered? Nope? Mine wasn’t either at the time. “It’s too simple.” “Sounds too easy.” But I started putting it into practice – rather than opening all my e-mails just to see what they said – I would reply to each one right after I read it – when possible. When handed a task to do that would take 15 minutes or less – I did it right then – when possible. How I use Fred’s mantra has morphed and changed in the years that have passed. I’m still not perfect at it by any means. Some weeks are better than others. But I can tell you that eight years later – thousands of decisions later – I still mentally repeat to myself daily, “When possible – only touch it once.”
Have you had an experience like this that changed how you do things? Your productivity?
Writer’s Note: I know there’s a litany of posts that could be written about when you should NOT do things instantly – hence the statement, “When possible.” There’s also a great lesson and a good post in the fact that the head pastor of a large church took the new kid to have his church key made on his first day. Not sure I would have actually heard the advice had it not come from who it did when it did. But those post ideas will have to wait for another day.