Tactics in Getting Things Done

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

August 27, 2013

[NOTE: I’m reluctant to post this post. This pontification of how to manage relationships in a day, I fear might come off as manipulative. But, that is not my intent. A friend said to me once that when entering a new workforce, it’s one’s job to figure out how to communicate with all those different personalities. We all need information, so how can we get the information we need to get our jobs done? It’s from that thinking that I write this – we all have ways in which we try to get things done, and I am interested in exploring the strategies behind those ways.]

View two: thumbs up

Levi was equally as insistent on this pose. Teamwork showcased by thumbs up is necessary.

It’s amazing to me how much strategy goes into doing a thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s parenting, being a wife, a sister, a daughter, a colleague, a boss, a volunteer, a volunteer board member… All roles involve some level of strategy. As an INTJ (Introvert, Intuition, Thinking, Judging), sometimes dubbed “Mastermind”, strategy speaks to me. Regardless, I find it interesting the aresenal of strategy must one employ some days to simply get things done.

In general, my basic tactic is this: assume curiosity, listen, and ask clarifying questions. I try to suppress whatever judgements I might have, reverse the situation and ask questions. I try to be sure I have compassion in my heart, otherwise I come off as sarcastic and rude (as evidenced in my later example). This tactic, though, works best when I plan for it.

Let’s continue with a different sort of example: raising children. I decided that I would not be (100%) my mother. I love my mother, no matter what. My mother, though, made choices based on her situation and what she knew. A lot of those things are the same: enforcing boundaries, recognizing needs, putting your kids first for many things. Some things are different like when we let our kids watch TV, when my husband and I decided to put our kid in school, how we negotiate punishments. I have been using a tactic, for example, where I respond with “asked and answered” when asked, repeatedly, the same question. “Mom, can I play Pac-Man?” No. “Why not?” Because I said so. “Mom, if you do this thing, I’ll let you play Pac-Man with me.” Asked and answered, Levi.

That’s a benign difference though. My mother had her own “asked and answered”. One point where we differ is food. I hated the food wars I had growing up. Being forced to eat spinach (canned, which to this day I despise, though freshI thoroughly enjoy), and the fight we would have over a tiny tablespoon – having to choke it down in all its sliminess. So, I don’t want to have food wars with my son… but he used to eat everything. Then we sent him to preschool, at the same time those taste buds of his started developing, more, in earnest. Suddenly, my child who used to eat everything (and is to this day commended as a “good eater” despite his pickiness!) became a very picky eater.

Levi at his birthday party, before him, the custom made cupcakes for my darling picky eater.

Levi at his birthday party, before him, the custom made cupcakes for my darling picky eater.

Suddenly, I was faced with a picky eater while working 40 hours a week, plus volunteering. Time is of the essence, and fighting over food isn’t how I want to spend the two hours we have from when we get home until bedtime. So, I started enabling the simple palette of buttered noodles, cheese, and apples. To the point that my child thinks that he can decide what’s for dinner! The audacity. As such, the tactics change. Did I give you a choice for dinner, Levi? “No.” Okay then. Steadfastly, we’ve been employing a tablespoon of everything – finish that, and then you get more. Don’t eat any of it? Then it’s served for the next (and the next if necessary) meal. I am not a short order cook; I am a mother with limited time on her hands!

Groups outside the family are notorious for strategy. I employ strategy when picking up the phone, constructing emails, choosing what to and what not to say to colleagues and supervisors. And, in one space, (at least one space) there is one individual, who I think takes joy in my screwing up. I expect him to call out my mistakes, while I imagine him gleefully rueful at his computer. So, I am prepared with strategy: THANK YOU sir for pointing out the error of my ways! Here is the corrected thing so that we may all move forward, quickly! Your guidance and mentorship (truly meant) are very helpful!

As I write this, I know how sarcastic it sounds – but I really don’t use sarcasm when it comes to these situations. A sarcastic strategy would only do a disservice. In fact, I fear for the sarcastic strategy because I think it would be more likely to backfire. I often wish sarcastic strategies would work for me, but I fear the disservice because it’s only been a disservice to me. (Maybe being sarcastic about a household chore, only to have it go undone when sarcasm was used to encourage it getting done.) So, imagine my delight when I heard on NPR this morning about how a campaign to save Troy’s Public Library from the tax cutting block worked, likely because of sarcasm!

Back in 2011, after a series of funding cuts that affected many municipalities, Troy’s library was slated to turn into a storage facility. After many repeated, unsuccessful attempts to get voters to turn out in support of funding the library – a group of citizens launched a sarcastic campaign: they called for a book burning party two days after the vote! (Read more about the Troy Book Burning Strategy.)

Not all strategies work for every situation. While I might “kill my colleague with kindness” to spite his rueful nature, I might forget where i’m not expecting it. Sometimes, when in situations, I might even choose an envelope pushing strategy, not unlike the Troy Book Burning, to call attention to a situation.

What kind of strategies do you employ? What are your most successful strategies that you use to get a job done?



  1. Dan

    [EDITED BY MODERATOR] If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s (Getting Things Done) GTD.

    • Michelle Lasley

      Thanks Dan, for giving a physical example of tactics we use during the day. In this post, I was more interested in exploring communication tactics since so much of our days revolves around colleague-to-colleague information exchanges. That said, my tools of choice are my electronic calendars, blended with the paper system. I prefer Franklin Covey.

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