A monkey on your back is a problem you have to solve or a task you have to do. Is your back bent under the weight of all the monkeys on your back?

Handing back the monkey (no matter how cute it might appear!) gets the pesky task monkey off your back.

Photo by TJ Kolesnik on Unsplash

If so, you’ll benefit from building this spine-stiffening muscle:

The ability to gracefully but firmly hand back errant monkeys.Book cover: The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey

Even if you’re ultimately responsible for the care and feeding of a particular monkey, today’s problem with the little beast may not belong to you.

Because getting clear about monkey ownership is such a key anti-burnout skill, I highly recommend this lively little book. It teaches how to manage your monkey zoo with real-world examples from the realms of work, home, and volunteering.

Here’s how Ken Blanchard sums up the problem:

When a person goes to the boss with a problem and the boss agrees to do something about it, the monkey is off his back and onto the boss'.

Here’s some quick examples of how “handing back the monkey” might sound:

  • If you’re the boss: “I agree, you do need more information to make that decision. What resources can you draw on to help you gather that data? And how much research time will you give yourself?”
  • If you’re a team member: “Interesting idea. It does expand the scope of Project A quite a bit. Off the top of my head it looks like it will add at least $10,000 to the budget, and delay Project B by at least six weeks. What are our priorities, here?”
  • If you’re the parent: “Hmm, these ‘clean’ plates have food stuck to them. How will you change your dish-washing strategy so this doesn’t happen again?”

I’ve noticed lots of ways I’ve trapped myself into accepting an errant monkey. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I could do that faster (or better, or more easily.)”
  • “It will be less stressful if I just do it myself.”
  • “I would look SO good if I managed to pull this off!”

I’ve learned – the hard way – to make myself take a good hard look at my permissive impulses, before I let a new monkey jump onto my back.

What have you learned from accepting, or rejecting, a pesky task monkey? If you’ve got a good monkey story, please share, so we can all learn!

— Beth Genly is the chief Burnout Recovery Mentor at Burnout Solutions, and co-author (with Dr. Marnie Loomis, ND) of Save Yourself from Burnout: A System to Get Your Life Back.