Don't Get Suckered!

"Never give a sucker an even break" - W.C Fields

Even though it's June I'm still toiling away in my garden getting chips down, digging up dead plant victims to the harsh winter and cleaning up. As I've been crawling around low and pruning up high I encountered something that I haven't seen in abundance in a long time - I've been "Suckered!" Guess what? You probably have been too but you just didn't know it.

Suckers are all around you. In this case, I'm not referring to your friends but to your garden. Have you ever had branches growing at the base of your trees like the picture below? Have you come across a woody plant or tiny thin tree growing an odd distance from a tree or bush? Frequently, the branches that sprout don't look a thing like the mother plant and seem to sprout out of nowhere. Just as the word indicates, “suckers” are not a good thing. In fact, suckers will drain the energy from your tree and may even weaken it to the point of death.  

Suckers are the result of a tree or large shrub trying hard to grow more branches, especially if it is stressed. On grafted trees (trees that have a different root stock from the actual tree to give it vigor or disease resistance – fruit trees are a prime example) the branches usually grow at the base of the tree like my Witch Hazel in the picture. What happens is the top part of the tree is happy as can be but the lower part (the roots) are stressed and the tree attempts to reproduce for protection. It essentially goes a little crazy. Other trees, like my Weeping Cherry, grow suckers as far as 5 feet away from the tree. I occasionally find small lanky trees trying to grow in odd places.

So what do you do with suckers? Pull them as soon as you find them. They grow super fast and have a lot of energy. They suck the energy from your trees and are parasites. In some cases on grafted trees they can take over the tree. Keep tearing them away and don’t let them take control. Some trees tend to sucker more than others and it’s just a matter of regularly pulling them. I’m always pulling suckers from the base of my Apple trees.

You can’t always prevent suckers but there are some things that you can do to try to keep them away.

ü  Keep your trees healthy and well watered. Fertilize them each spring. Strong trees have the energy to survive an onslaught of suckers.
ü  Don’t over prune your trees. It will weaken them. When I was young we never let my Mom have the pruners. She tended to go on a pruning rampage.
ü  Don’t over prune, but prune regularly. Pruning enables the tree to stretch out and grow. Pruning also stimulates growth hormones within the tree which is exactly what you want to start the new growing season.
ü  Pull those suckers the minute you see them and check back in periodically to make sure they haven’t returned.

"If you look around the table and you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you"– Paul Scofield

Do you sometimes feel like there are suckers all around you as you go through the day? They sap your attention, your energy, and your growth?  Suckers distract you and you feel like you are working hard but never getting anything done. There’s a name for these “suckers” and they don’t belong to your coworkers. The suckers that I’m talking about are productivity suckers. I’m guessing that right away you can name a few that pop into your mind. Their goal is to turn you into a fire fighter and to keep you busy without accomplishing a thing. They turn you into the person who is running around all day working like madman but seemingly getting nothing done. Stop the suckers! Yank them away like we do to the suckers on our trees and get growing!

Here’s a list of the most common productivity suckers that you want to avoid. I guarantee that you will take back control of your time and your results will grow:

ü  Attend fewer meetings. Shorten ones that you hold. Don’t feel obligated to accept every invite and are regular weekly meetings really beneficial? Nope. They are often the biggest time suckers of all. Start saying no and prioritize. Protect your time and your schedule.
ü  Run from chatty coworkers. Hide from the gossipers. Be pleasant but don’t get sucked in.
ü  Create action plans for yourself and others to avoid other priorities from creeping in.
ü  Avoid your email. Emails can pull you in and force you to lose your focus. Don’t manage by answering every email that comes in one after another. Create folders for low priority emails to drop into automatically. Stick to your priority list, not the email list.
ü  Don’t copy everyone on every email that you send. Stop people from copying you on every email. Copying = covering butts in most cases.
ü  Ignore emails all together and do what our parents did back in the day. Pick up the phone and have an actual discussion rather than an email war. Person to person communication will always win.
ü  Set aside quiet time for goal setting. Block your calendar. Silence the cell phone. Hide in the bathroom if you must. Do it.
ü  Don’t multitask. You know that it doesn’t really work. How many people do you know that multitask in meetings and are clueless about the discussion? Every day all day.
ü  Use the technology at your fingertips. Make sure it’s updated and functional. If you don’t know how to use it then learn. It will help you fight the time suckers.
ü  Stop trying to look good by being the “nice” girl to work on extra projects or be on every committee. You will soon be lost in a field of suckers. You know what they will do to you!

What is your worst productivity sucker? Email would be mine, and you?