Lessons from an over busy diary
It’s 0345hr, my alarm is going off and I cant help asking myself is this sustainable? Two days ago I arrived late at the hotel and crashed into bed. A restless night had me up slightly too early, my day had started. The following 48 hours were jam packed, 2 follow up sessions with different programme cohorts, a grabbed and rushed evening meal, another follow up one-to-one evening meeting in the hotel lobby, before a 2 hour committee meeting online. A better nights sleep followed before a solid day of 2 more follow up sessions, plus a 2 hour training needs meeting with the clients general manager. I was quite ready to come home when the late evening flight got cancelled and a bunch of alternative arrangements kicked in to play.
So here I am, it’s 0447hr and I’m amazed at how many people are around me in the airport. I should be home by 0830hr, but sadly, only to repack for another flight out at 1300hr (for a workshop in Milan of Friday). It’s turning into one of those weeks.
I know I’m not alone in having a pressured week, really I do, I’m sure my story and much much worse is being repeated many times around the world. But sitting here with my empty blue Nero cup, I can’t help feeling my diary has got a little out of order recently. When it feels like this, I like to count my blessings, it puts things back into perspective. I’ve got UCB1 radio on in my headphones (one of our great clients) while waiting for the gate to be called, they’ve just played a track featuring my two sons and son in law, makes me feel really very proud and grateful. I muse on other things that make me glad and at the same time sad (seriously ill ageing parents) and I reaffirm to my self the need to enjoy it all.
When my retired dad tells me he’s had a busy week, I have to say, I don’t necessarily believe it! That’s the funny thing about being busy – it’s such a relative thing. One persons busy is another’s easy, I guess the thing we need to watch for, is when it’s all becoming overly pressured. For me that happens when I start to feel things are getting out of control. Too many balls being juggled, so that there’s a real danger I start dropping some. Generally I try not to worry about those things I cannot influence, the pressure comes when I am simply struggling to do all those things that are within my span of control. I find clarity of purpose a helpful thing at these times. I ask myself whether I am sure about what the end goals is. It helps me to work at doing the right things rather than just being busy about all sorts of things. Who in this fast paced world has the bandwidth to do stuff that is not directly contributing towards what you want or need to achieve? I suspect no one, but I also suspect many managers have teams without that necessary focus or clarity.
Making sure your team knows what is critical in achieving the desired outcome ought to be a daily task for anyone in a leadership role. I’m quite dedicated to the idea that my team shouldn’t end up doing anything that is not directly and clearly linked to a desired vision or outcome. It’s a way for you to help them ensure some sanity and not become overwhelmed by the weight of work.
I wrote about slimming down stuff a couple of weeks ago, I think now is also a good time time for me to re assess some diary commitment rules. set some realistic maximums on things like client days per week etc. Someone told me a story this week about a small local company that gives one day a week to its staff for development and improvement. I love that idea, it’s a big commitment to ‘reduce’ productivity by 20% but am convinced we do need to find refresh time, future time, development time, to survive in today’s challenging work environments and markets. I think I’m going to schedule some growth days in the diary, perhaps for the whole team, I’ll ask them about it. It will help me to ensure some sanity around my own schedule as well.
It’s all too easy to become a victim of our busy lives, when the truth is we always have choices, always.