Are you a Gladiator?

A lot of inventions that we use today were first created by the Romans, like the aqueduct, our schooling system, and the sewage. The Romans were also very innovative when it came to war.
One of these war inventions was the scutum, a big rectangular shield. Before the scutum, it was custom for soldiers to wear a small oval shield, often accompanied by a long spear or sword. The sword needed to be long to keep the enemy at a safe distance. However, carrying a long weapon, came with a cost. A long sword is heavy and immobile. It dramatically diminishes your reaction speed and flexibility.

Therefore, the Romans developed a long rectangular shield that protected their entire body. This long shield enabled the Roman soldier to approach the enemy up close without the risk of getting hurt. Because of this shield, soldiers were now able to get so close to the enemy, that a short sword would suffice. A short sword is much easier to handle than a long one and many times more effective.

What does Roman warfare have to do with time management?

A modern-day knowledge worker has a lot in common with a Roman Gladiator. Though in the office arena one does not battle lions but unceasing emails, meeting invites, deadlines, superiors, and customers’ demands. A lot of modern-day soldiers face a to-do list that’s never-ending.

As your to-do lists get longer and longer you can try to beat it by working harder, staying late and skipping breaks. But none of this will work. It will only diminish your productivity and drain your energy. Much in the same way as a long sword hinders a Roman soldier.

Stop fighting harder and start working smarter by protecting yourself.

How do you protect yourself effectively from office threats?

There are various strategies you can apply to make sure you remain productive and stress-proof in an ‘office arena.’ Let’s take a closer look at the different enemies and how you can protect yourself.

E-mail

E-mail can be a perpetual threat to your concentration and focus. You can fight the beast by turning off all notifications. Only open your inbox at set times during the day (preferably not more than four times each day). And don’t use it as a to-do-list or archive.

Smartphone

Another foe that’s out to distract you from getting your work done is your smartphone. Again, turning off notifications and removing apps will help diminish some of its pull. Try to get comfortable with experiencing discomfort, so you won’t reach for your phone the second you start to feel anything related to boredom, emptiness, or self-doubt.

Social media

If you enjoy sharing pictures of your Soya Latte on Instagram, or cyber stalk your ex, that’s fine. Just make sure not to use social media during working hours. Except of course when social media is your core business, but even then, be aware that you set clear goals the moment you go online. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the black hole of time consuming, ego-shattering social media use.

Dealing with the crocodile

Of course, you already know you have to beware of phones and social media. Just like we all know donuts are not a dietary food. But what if your supervisor comes to your desk and asks you to look at a report, just when you’re in the middle of wrapping up an important task with an impending deadline. Saying “No” to your supervisors’ request can feel like putting your head in the mouth of an alligator. Not something for which many of us would volunteer. Still, it is not as dangerous as you might think. On the contrary, if your supervisor is not a complete narcissist, he (or she) might appreciate your assertiveness. As long as it’s clear that it’s not because you don’t want to help or that you don’t care about the company goals.

Your supervisor might prefer a firm but co-operative ‘no’ over a friendly ‘yes,’ without follow-up.

“Saying ‘no’ to one thing means saying ‘yes’ to something else”

A definite ‘no’ opens the way for another solution. For example, you can offer to
a) do the task at another moment, 
b) do only a part of the task,
c) arrange for someone else to do it. 

Another strategy is to clarify the consequences of doing the task.  For example: “I would love to make time for you to go over this report together, but I have an appointment with X in two hours. If I do this with you now, I will not be able to prepare fully for the appointment. ” By following this strategy you force your supervisor to prioritize.

And co-workers…

Co-workers, it’s hard living with ór without them. You like a chat as much as the next person, and of course, you want to help if they have any problems, but not during an important task that requires your full concentration.
If you cannot shield yourself physically from your co-workers (open-plan offices were most likely designed by people not working in one), wear headphones or cultivate a “do not disturb me” body language.
Are you still being interrupted? Tell them you’re working on something important that requires all your attention and propose a counteroffer. For example: “I’m in the middle of completing this powerpoint can you come back to me after lunch?”.

A good defense is half the work

These are just some strategies to shield yourself from modern-day attacks in the office arena. Not by working harder, but by creating a stronger defense. A good shield will allow you to make more progress with less stress. With the courage of the Gladiator and the shield of a office warrior. Learn how to create a good shield in our online time management training.

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