Stuart Smalley was an Al Franken character on Saturday Night Live who hosted skits called “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley.” Stuart did his best to help important people solve their problems. The script below makes frequent reference to an April 30, 2012 article appearing in the Chicago Tribune by Rex Huppke entitled “Calling Timeout on work interruptions, distractions.”
Stuart Smalley: [Looking at self in mirror] I deserve good things. I am entitled to my share of happiness. I refuse to beat myself up. I am an attractive person. I am fun to be with. And I’m gonna help someone today! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!
[ turns to camera ]
My guest today is David Dewey, Managing Partner of the prestigious CPA firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.
As the firm’s MP, you have steered DCH on a path to becoming the fastest growing, most profitable CPA firm in America. David, you should be very proud of yourself.
David Dewey: Well, thank you, Stuart. I am.
Stuart Smalley: Well, good for you! David, I know there must be a lot of pressure on to you to keep revenue and profit growth bigger every year. I can imagine during the course of the year, there are times when you must lie awake thinking, “I’m not good enough..,everybody’s better than me… I’m not going to achieve my goals…I have no business being the MP.”
David Dewey: No, not really.
Stuart Smalley: [ arches eyebrows ]
David Dewey: Well, OK. I sometimes get a little nervous that our partners and staff may become less productive and efficient. I worry that everyday distractions may prevent us from achieving our core goals –delivering high quality work, retaining clients and helping them grow, acquiring new clients and developing top notch staff.
Stuart Smalley: I thought something might be bothering you. And that’s.. o-kay. You’re not alone. Believe me, I know what it’s like.. laying there alone.. worrying if I’m going to fail and be exposed for what I am, a big imposter.. I just want to curl up and lay in bed all day and eat Fig Newtons.
David Dewey: Well.. something like that.
Stuart Smalley: Right. Well, David, those worries are your critical inner thoughts saying those things to you, and I want you to replace those negative thoughts with something positive – a daily affirmation.
David Dewey: Affirmation?
Stuart Smalley: Yes. Now, tell me what these threats to working without interruptions and distractions.
David Dewey: As the firm’s MP, it’s my job to keep our people’s jobs as simple as possible so they can focus on their work. But every step along the way, partners and staff are constantly bombarded with emails, telephone calls, interruptions from staff with questions, social media such as Linked-in, Facebook and Twitter sucking up our time, reading our snail mail and text messaging. These are highly tempting distractions.
Stuart Smalley: I just read a study that found 45% of workers make it only 15 minutes before being interrupted, and more than half say they waste at least an hour a day on distractions.
David Dewey: You see. That’s what I’m up against. My people know they have the power within them to take control over this waste. But something gets in the way.
Stuart Smalley: I’ll give you another morsel. A 2009 Stanford University Study found that people who routinely receive information from multiple sources don’t pay attention, control their memory or move from one project to the next as well as workers who handle one task at a time.
David Dewey: So, you see my problem. What on earth can I do?
Stuart Smalley: Rest easy, my son. There are three solutions you need and they are right in front of your eyes, but you are too blind to see them:
- First, you must help your partners understand that the distractions they allow are caused by your innate desire to feel self-important. But your partners are good enough, strong enough and doggone it, people like them; this will continue even if they never receive or respond to another email, twitter or phone call. They don’t need a never-ending flow of digital distractions to bolster their feelings of self-importance. And David, that’s your biggest role – to remind them how important they are.
- Second, it comes down to self-confidence. Jeff Davidson, author of “Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society,” says “it comes down to self-confidence. We need to get back to a state in which we say, ‘I know myself, I know how I work, I know what it takes for me to do this job.” Then, give yourself a block of uninterrupted time to complete the task.”
- Third, Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check E-mail in the Morning,” says: “The temptation is ‘let me take care of all the little things people need from me, and then I can relax and focus on the big things. This is misguided because the little things never stop.” Steven Covey gave us great advice almost 20 years ago: “Do first things first.”
Now, look in the mirror. Come on, don’t look at me. Only you can help you. [ David faces the mirror ] That’s it. Say, “Hello, David.”
David Dewey: “Hello, David.”
Stuart Smalley: Repeat after me: I don’t have to feel self-important by wasting hours of my time responding immediately to every email, text message and phone call I receive, deluding myself that multi-taskers are to be envied.
David Dewey repeats.
Stuart Smalley: I refuse to allow my self-confidence to be shaken when I am unable to respond to the hundreds of mostly trivial distractions that cross my desk every day.
David Dewey repeats.
Stuart Smalley: I am able to focus on first things first, despite the temptation of distractions that ruin my focus every day.
David Dewey repeats.
Stuart Smalley: I don’t have to let all of these digital distractions get me off target. Because all I have to do is be the best David I can be.
David Dewey: All I have to do is be the best David I can be.
Stuart Smalley: Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!
David Dewey: Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!
Stuart Smalley: Now, don’t you feel better?
David Dewey: Much better, thanks to you, Stuart.
[ Stuart and David hug ]