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Battle of the Turds: Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Weigh in on This Time Management Hack

Choose the requests you should and want to act on

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 22 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It’s already 5 PM and you’ve only gotten through a few items on your to-do list—where did all that time go? Maybe it’s because you’ve been given, and tried responding to, too many turds.

“So a ‘turd’ is what people put in your pocket to evoke an action on your part. Family, friends, co-workers, and strangers are loading your pockets with turds through email, phone calls, and face-to-face interactions,” writes Chris McGoff in this Inc. article.

Turds can catch people off guard because they are indirect requests. Cloaked in the form of an idea or passive statement (i.e. “I have an idea”, “I can’t figure out this problem”), turd givers are unaware that they’re handing out turds. That doesn’t bode well for the receiver because too many turds will take up a lot of your mental space. In his article, McGoff suggests volleying these back by putting the turd “back in their pocket,” with responses such as “How do you plan to making it happen?” or “What do you have in mind?”

Reflecting the turds back, but in a positive manner

“I receive turds from almost everyone around me! I think it is partly cultural and partly human nature to give turds to others,” says David Foo, co-founder of Graaab JaGaApp, a Malaysia-based app that optimizes a community’s security and communications.

“I fully agree with the article in ‘reflecting’ the turds back, and I think it is important to give back in a suggestive and positive manner,” says Foo, adding he hardly turns down requests except when he’s working on important tasks, when he’ll “tell the others that right now is not a good time and I would need some time to myself.”

While turds may seem downright evil, they may not be a complete waste of time.

“As a young inexperienced CEO, it happened to me particularly in my first year, not only with employees at GetLinks but also with external acquaintances,” says Djoann Fal, CEO and co-founder of Thai tech hiring marketplace GetLinks.

“For acquaintances, turds have actually been very useful and are a factor of our initial traction. By jumping on quests to help people who needed help, we got their trust to help us back when needed. It requires a certain level of proximity that I suggest everyone to try to get with people who seem interesting,” adds Fal. Not all turds are created equal, so it’s important to manage the turds that have been given to you.

For David Chambat, founder of Villa-Finder.com, a Singapore-based online villa distribution solution for travelers and villa owners, he says “Our motto here at villa-bali.com is that facing to-do lists that are always longer and more urgent, full of ‘turds’ and ‘monkeys’ (as described here by HBR), we need to educate people and teams to deal with priority setting and execution. We have successfully implemented a 4D rule where, when confronted with a problem: 1. You try to DELETE it by asking the question ‘shall we do it?’ 2. If not deleted, you should DELEGATE, and if you cannot delegate and this task is really yours, then 3. You should DELAY until it is the right time to 4. DO.”