Written by Steve Browne
Running on Ice
Efficient living. Oxymoronic? Yes. Everyday I wake up to the schedule I re-tweak from the night before and try to squeeze as much stuff into the time allotted to me each day (it's still 24 hours, but I have put a request for reconsideration). There are clients to meet, HR work that they need done, advice to give that is relied upon (which means effort in thought) and a business to be developed. Manageable, yes, but only if I didn't also have a family to spend time with, invest in and enjoy. There are also friends to be with, working out, eating, sleeping....well, you get it.
I can actually feel your head nodding in agreement as you read. I am not alone and neither are you. We are so full that it's no wonder so many of us struggle with depression and anxiety. And to top it off, do the majority of us feel as though our time is being used well? With many companies still working under the "doing more with less" philosophy of talent management, our employees feel this, too.
All of the ideals that used to energize us and we would pursue with passion have become chores and duties. We've allowed our focus to be on schedules and meetings rather than conversation and passion. Simple to say, but true nonetheless. So we have to consider and adjust. For instance, look at what you've done over the past two weeks of work. How much of it was truly productive?
I had the absolute privilege of speaking with someone recently who shared honestly that as successful as he was, he had allowed his self-esteem to be tied to his performance at work. He was valuable and regarded as such. This pushed him to work even harder to keep that status. In doing so, he lost sight of him. He began to see himself as only about this one successful role, this role that kept him swallowed. I found myself nodding in agreement with him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Your company sees real, true, measurable value in what you do and how you do it. Your company wants to encourage more of that behavior and those results (and rightly so). Your company is where you spend a good bit, if not the majority, of your time. It is very easy to tie who you are to what you do in this one, albeit large, area.
The cycle looks just like running on ice. You keep putting effort into the motion of running, but it's not very pretty and it really doesn't get you as far as you think. Perhaps there is success in what you are doing, but is it as successful as it could be? The baseball player who is hitting .213 may not seem so great, but he does if the rest of team is batting under 200. It's relative. You can advance in placement when running on ice, but the return on the effort exerted is not good. As a former runner (dang right knee!), I have experienced the thrill (is there such a thing in running?) of moving on asphalt, rubberized tracks, wooded trails and miles of roadway. My motion is different on those surfaces and I had to make adjustments. Efficiency in running is connected to how smooth and fluid you can make each motion. Movement of arms and legs, head position and breathing are some of the areas to bring together in cohesion for one fluid movement.
We often don't get to react fluidly. We get to react. Our lives move from being planned by us to being dictated by a thousand other things. Control is needed. Think about your movement.
I know that there are happenings in life that you cannot plan for - death, injury, care for a parent, etc. - but that's not what I mean by control. Ask some pointed questions of yourself. Can I not participate in this meeting and trust that those involved can handle it without me? Can I delegate more effectively? Do I know the skill sets and aptitudes of my team? How I can free burden from another worker, too? How can we leverage each other better? Examine your environment.
The staff you are with is dealing with the same. Perhaps working through efficient use of time with managers would be helpful. They, then, can take that training back to their departments and teams. Leveraging time well will lead to an increase in productivity. But bear in mind that if most of us deal with a difficulty in managing our own time, then how would a manager feel equipped to help others. Let's provide some tools! Not everything "urgent" is important. We should teach others that truth.
Start with you. Sometimes, the summer months allow for a vacation or perhaps a couple of days off. Might I challenge you to use a hour or two of it to work through this perspective? Have you been running on ice? Have you seen a loss of passion? Why? What can you do to approach it differently? Are you moving so much but feeling like your not getting very far or making a lasting difference? Have you allowed yourself to be defined by what you do? The way you view your schedule might shed some light on this.
As I get ready for another day of 90+ degrees as part of the East Coast heatwave, I kinda like thinking about running on ice. It's a heck of a lot cooler than running on the black top of the roadways around Philadelphia. However, those runs really allow me to think clearer about my goals and whether the life I live daily are moving me towards them. If that breakaway would be helpful for you, then grab an ice cube and some water and get moving!