Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As we go through this challenging, slightly surreal period, it’s a good time to reflect on what matters most to us, and what we place that at the mercy of.
This period of restriction is forcing us to operate in ways we would not do voluntarily, from home working to working under stress in a biologically hostile environment, to not being able to work at all for a while.
It’s hard, both psychologically and for many financially. Its a massive change in our day to day habits, so we have choices.
We can resent it
We can blame other people for it.
We can blame other people for not sorting it faster.
Or we can take responsibility and learn from it.
The 80/20 rule is a good reference point in most of the things we do. I’ve known this a long time, and despite that am still poor at applying it to my work. It’s just too easy to follow routines.
Now however, with our routines blown out of the water, we have a chance to reflect. Talking to many of my clients, and considering my own work, I’m struck (and a little personally embarrassed) by how much the current situation is exposing how much waste goes into the “normal” day to day, and how much we could be doing that we don’t.
- Pointless meetings
- Putting up with politics and unproductive behaviours.
- Denial of issues that need to addressed. Elephants dancing round the room whilst we ignore them.
- Avoidance – Coffee anyone?
- Staying with the unproductive familiar rather than the potentially productive (but personally riskier) new.
- Making journeys (including commuting) that could be done more effectively (and in a more environmentally beneficial way) from home or somewhere else locally.
- The list goes on, and on.
- Considering our reason for being here – what matters to us?
- Thinking – properly, vs. blind doing.
- Listening – much easier over skype or zoom than face to face.
- Questioning – is this the best way?
- Getting outside
- Just wondering for a while.
I end up confident that 80% of what we do as routine adds little, and more likely subtracts from creating value for those who pay us – whether employers, or directly as clients.
We’re in danger I believe of living our lives the same way, with our real potential for achievement of what really matters to us dissolved in unproductive routines in order to satisfy other people.
I’m now doing on line what I would normally do face to face, and for the most part better (once I’ve adapted). It doesn’t replace face to face, but I’m convinced there’s a ratio – maybe 3:1 (remote vs face to face) that can work really well.
We don’t have to work the way we have been – most of it is habit.
There’s a form of diminishing marginal returns at work. Doing work we don’t enjoy, for people we don’t rate or organisations whose purpose we don’t respect, in order to earn money we don’t have time to enjoy.
We can do better than that.
The period of disruption we are in will last at least as long as it takes us to change a habit, so it’s a good time to be our own “lab rat” – to actively notice what we are doing, why we are doing it, what happens as a result, and what the alternatives might be.
A swift, spiritual kick to the head that changes your reality foreverGrosse Pointe Blank, dir. George Cusack
I’ve observed that we rarely make the changes that matter, that really improve our lives voluntarily. There are too many reasons to moderate, to risk mitigate, to pontificate. The real moves come via a Shockabuku, something we can’t control and have to deal with, that brings out the best in us.
Covid-19 is a shockabuku.
We have an opportunity to rebalance what matters most with what matters least.
It would be a shame to waste it.