My daughter is in her final year of high school and will be off to college in the fall. Eight months to go, and I’m already mentally preparing myself, curious about how our lives will change.
Only eight months left of her childhood. I find myself wondering if I could’ve done more for her over the years. I wonder if she should have gone on an exchange program or overnight camp. I wonder if she should have had more dance lessons or gone to more concerts and plays. The list goes on.
Yet, there were only so many hours in the day and a budget to stick to. As a result, I set priorities. And while I’m proud of the daughter that my husband and I have raised, the feelings of guilt—that I could’ve done more—keep creeping into my mind.
This morning, I came across an interesting blog post: How Leaders Can Avoid Shiny Objects, Black Holes, Fire Drills and Other Dangerous Distractions. Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie writes that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is managing time. He explains the need to spend this limited resource on the most important issues, and to avoid the distractions that can jeopardize projects, teams, and entire companies. I appreciated how he described the three most dangerous distractions: bright shiny objects, black holes, and fire drills.
What I find interesting is that each of these distractions can also show up in parenting:
|The Bright Shiny Object|
|A new product, project, or partner that’s generating a lot of buzz. The problem is, it’s not really right for the company, or it’s a long shot. But it’s really cool! Should you devote time to it, at the expense of other, more viable and profitable things?||The latest and greatest after-school activity. The problem is, your child is already pretty busy. But, you’re concerned that your child will not get into insert the name of your favorite college unless they do this activity. Should you figure out how to pay for it, juggle the schedule, and organize carpools to fit it in?|
|The Black Hole|
|The company has approved an expensive project, but about 25% of the way in you know you’re going to be over budget. Do you pull the plug now, or ask for more money and trudge on?||You enrolled your child in a new sports program, but they’re disappointed because they aren’t as strong as the other players. Do you pull the plug now, or invest in private coaching?|
|The Fire Drill|
|Your boss saw a complaint from an unhappy customer. It was a bad one, but when you dug into it the day before it appeared to be an isolated case that could be routinely handled by customer service, following the protocol for cases exactly like this one. Your boss sees it as a complete breakdown of customer service. Should you start the fire drill – two days of phone calls, e-mails, and meetings involving all of your team, devoted to that single complaint?||Your child has known about a school project for over a week, and the night before it’s due she panics because she doesn’t have all the needed craft materials. You’re not too worried because you can think of other things she can use. She sees it differently. Should you start the fire drill of running around town to pick up the supplies?|
|* Many thanks to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie for these leadership examples.|
It’s not easy to avoid these distractions. It takes courage to say “no”, to be the bad cop, to step back and not get swept up in it all. But, by avoiding them, parents and leaders can spend their time and money on the things that really matter.
So, as my daughter heads off to college, I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilt over the things I could’ve done as a parent. Most would have distracted me from more important activities. Instead, I’m going to feel good about the things I did that made an impact and helped her become an incredible young woman.
© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.
(Photo credit: BigStock.com)