Washington — Maybe you're reading this in the five minutes of relaxation time you have scheduled today between work and your evening's activity. Or you're squeezing it between the committee meeting and the professional society event you're attending tonight. Perhaps you have it propped up in front of you while you make dinner, jog in place, and listen to your French lesson records.
Meet Jeff Davidson, a workaholic here in what many believe to be the world's workaholic capital. He gives a course called ''The Activity Trap.''
''Do you find yourself joining more groups, undertaking more projects, and in general balancing more activities than you can effectively handle?'' asks the brochure for his course.
The description sounds, in fact, like a synopsis of Mr. Davidson's life. A marketing vice-president at a local management consulting firm, Mr. Davidson also works as a free-lance writer, is on the board of half a dozen professional organizations, and claims that, as a single, young male, he is in a position to ''say a calculated yes to everything right now. If I were further along in my career, or independently wealthy, I'd say no, but right now I need the visibility that all this board work gives me,'' he explains.
This man's going to tell us how not to get involved?
''You need to be selective about it,'' he says. Start by figuring out ''what your personal goals are - social, career, spiritual, whatever. Write down the top four and put them somewhere, like your mirror,'' he says.
If an activity doesn't contribute to your top four goals, he says, ''Drop it.'' His rule applies to all activities - not just calendar events. ''Look at the number of people who watch these evening soap operas today. How can they stand by and spend their lives watching, when others are out and doing, making their careers progress?'' he asks.
TV is just the start of his drop list, which includes things like cleaning (''Hire someone or buy the best labor-saving devices you can''), romance novels (''Bet you won't remember a single thing that happened in the book 18 months from now''), stories that run in the newspaper several days in a row (''What relevance does Bert Lance have to you now?''), and whiny people (''a real drain on your time'').
Still have no time? ''Imagine that your boss just told you to attend a course each Tuesday evening from 7 to 10 o'clock, for 15 weeks. Your career is resting on this course - you need it for a promotion - so chances are, you're going to go, right? So shove aside everything on your calendar and make room for it. Once you've done that,'' he says, imaginatively, ''give yourself a reprieve. The course is now canceled, and you have lots of time each Tuesday to concentrate on your goals.''
Another ''excellent'' way to make time for things you consider important: Say no. ''How many of us end up doing things we only feel mild about because we haven't learned to say no?'' he asks. That word - which must be practiced (''Try it on your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your boss'') - should be ''couched in something positive. If someone asks you to review his paper, say, 'I'd really like to, but I'm pressed for time right now and I'll have to pass.' ''
Finally, ''set yourself a target date of a month, month and a half from today , and start finishing up, saying no, and giving work back now. . . . After all, nothing is more important than your time,'' he says, on his way out.