Does your family forget appointments? Perhaps posting a large calendar in a prominent place is a system that will work for you.

DAVID JOLES • Star Tribune file,

The importance of clarity

  • Article by: McClatchy News Service
  • December 13, 2013 - 2:57 PM


Do you get caught up in the same quarrels with others repeatedly? Maybe you yell at your children for not cleaning their rooms. Or, do you get fed up because your spouse won’t pick up milk on the way home?

We all get miffed at the people around us. If they care about us, we reason, they should be paying attention.

What’s really at the center of this conflict, however, is usually not people at all. We just need better systems in place to make things work.

If you can imagine how puzzled an 8-year-old boy is when Mom yells, “You never get your room in order! It looks like a pigsty in there!” you’ll get the picture. A parent looks at the mess and says to herself, “Can’t he see the clutter and chaos? I know he’s just 8, but he’s old enough to figure this out.”

If Mom had told the child, “Hang up your clothes first. Get some hangers out of the closet, and I’ll help you. Take your time and place everything in the closet. Then I want you to put your books back on their shelves,” this would be a good start.

Now, imagine that Mom told Junior, “After you hang your clothes and stash your books, could you pick up all of your socks and towels from your bathroom? Take these to the laundry basket.”

Children are usually eager to pitch in, but they have to visualize what to do next. Things will go smoother if you define the steps. Later, encourage your child to develop his own steps and work out a system for fixing a problem related to homework, ball practice or pet care.

Plenty of supervisors get upset with employees because specific work isn’t accomplished. Likewise, teachers get upset because their students haven’t written polished academic papers, as they were instructed to do.

If you’re tearing your hair out over issues such as these, invent some systems. Back up and define some clear-cut directions.

A supervisor might post three critical goals for every employee to accomplish in a given week. The employee should write the game plan for accomplishing each goal. Both supervisor and employee should fully understand the system and look for potential glitches before work begins.

“I’ve starting appointing one person each week to fill up the printers with copy paper,” says a business owner we’ll call Rex. “We used to just fret and blame each other as we wasted lots of time floundering around for copy paper,” he laughs. “Now, we have a plan. We know who to blame if the paper runs out.”

In a marriage, it’s always a good idea to have some “systems” in place to prevent irritation and quarrels. For example, you could:

• Meet once a week with your spouse for 20 minutes. During this time, you each give the other a list of three things you need assistance with.

• Keep a grocery list posted on the refrigerator. A magnetic writing pad might be the perfect system to make notes about milk or bread needed. Each partner can take turns buying the groceries for a week at a time.

At work or at home, someone needs to invent a system to fix every problem. The next time you’re angry with someone, stop to ask, “What agreement would help prevent this quarrel in the future?”

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