Eliminating tolerations: Dealing with unfinished business

- June 28, 2010 2 MIN READ

Are you, like me, surrounded by a myriad of itsy bitsy things pleading for your attention? And are you sick of how this messes with your mind? Try these actions to help with eliminating tolerations.

When I began training as a coach over a decade ago, I was introduced to the concept of ‘tolerations’. Tolerations are things we put up with that steal our concentration, cloud our focus and disrupt any coherent pattern of work.

Yes, tolerations are bad and they need exterminating. Here’s how I lay into mine.

1. If it’s a mass of ‘stuff’

Stuff may translate to an overflowing inbox, a pile of papers, a little stack of business cards or just general workspace mess.

Whatever its manifestation, the solution is a concerted block of cleaning up time. In such instances I adopt the persona of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction and use a lesson learned via the Pomodoro Technique.

The first step is to clarify precisely what’s going to be zapped, set a timer for 25 minutes and unless fire or blood is involved, ignore everything but the task at hand.

If you need longer, take a five-minute break, do a couple of laps of the office and go in for round two. On no account check email, Twitter or phone messages.

2. If thinking time is required

Often what’s going on in my complex little brain is a swirl of disjointed thinking regarding business strategies, vague concepts or a cocktail of random and incomplete world changing ideas.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that if I don’t get them down on paper they’ll never see the light of day and I’ll end up in the funny farm.

A simplified mind map is the answer for me. A quick ten or fifteen minute brain dump gets the chaos out of my head and into a format I can come back to later.

Want more articles like this? Check out the productivity section.

3. If it’s a plain old worry

Pacing up and down worrying about ‘what might happen if…’ and such like is so destructive and in nine out of ten cases, unfounded. Working alone, it’s very easy to self-accelerate negative thinking and quietly convince yourself you’ve never done a good thing in your life.

At such times I use a little ‘change your thinking’ tool I picked up years ago from the world of cognitive behaviour therapy. It involves looking at anxieties from all sides, instead of simply focusing on the ugly bit.

Deborah Keep wrote a great piece along these lines a short while back.

So this week, if your mind is creaking under the strain, give these simple steps a run up the flagpole and be sure to tell us how you go.