by Liz Proctor When you were an 8 year old, if someone had asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you have told them? How close are you to having that thing in your life and business now? OK, so being an astronaut, professional Lego builder or the World’s…
Are there too many things to do, or is it just that we (or I, at least) have an overriding need to do ALL THE THINGS and – here’s the real problem – do them ALL AT ONCE, NOW?
Everything we do, we do in stages. Even something as simple as making a cup of tea involves a whole series of steps, from getting up off the chair to filling the kettle, switching it on, and so on.
So when we’re starting a new venture, or simply trying to get done all the things that we’re committed to doing, let’s remember that we can’t do them all at once. We can only do them one step at a time.
No prizes for guessing who this post is written for. You, my reader, of course, but mostly as a reminder to myself that I can’t do all the things all at once!
What does productivity look like? Piles of lists with every item ticked off, things you can point to at the end of the day and say, “Look what I did”? Perhaps. Or it could also look like someone chatting to a lot of people, making connections with them, or even sitting in a cafe quietly thinking.
What does productivity sound like? Silence punctuated by the tapping of a keyboard, people having meetings in brisk, meaningful tones? But maybe it can also be the raucous laughter of three women who hadn’t planned to meet today but find the ideas sparking and plans developing when they do.
What does productivity feel like? Frantic, frenetic activity followed by exhausted satisfaction at a job finally finished? Sounds worthy, but can it also feel relaxed and uplifting?
If we’re to be truly productive in our work (at home or otherwise), we need to make room for thinking time, laughter, movement and fresh air. And maybe we need to redefine productivity to include all the things which have no tangible outcome, but which can often move us closer to one.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things which have the most profound impact. Yesterday I made a chart of all the projects in my head, work or otherwise, and listed the things I knew needed to be done on each. Result: a clear head, and a sense of relief that I didn’t have to keep thinking about them all, because they were written down, all together, in an orderly fashion. I could even start to prioritise and plan.
It’s part of the drive for an integrated life, which I wrote about yesterday. Bringing everything together, acknowledging that it’s all part of the same life, can be really helpful. It doesn’t mean that everything gets mushed together in a big mess and you have to do laundry and tax returns and business planning and all the other stuff all at the same time. It’s not about juggling, and certainly not about multi-tasking. (Now that’s another thing I don’t believe in, like work/life balance.)
Bringing all the parts of your life together like this makes is much easier to see which are the most pressing things, which are the biggest things, and which are the things that you simply don’t have time or mental space to do just at the moment. (Yes, it shows jut how realistic or otherwise your plans really are!) And whether you work at home, or outside of the home, it enables you to be very clear about boundaries between tasks. Because if it’s all written down in the same place, it won’t be forgotten, so you can afford to focus on just one thing at a time, knowing that the others will be taken care of in their turn.
Of course, it’s one thing to write all the things down, and quite another to actually get them done. Procrastination comes to us all. But, in the spirit of true procrastination, I’ll post about that – tomorrow!
“Work/life balance”. What does the phrase mean to you? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a helpful one. It implies that work is not part of life and, as we all know, work is very much a part of our lives. It implies that there is work (over there), and there is life (over here), and that they are at opposite ends of a metaphorical seesaw. Only when the seesaw is perfectly horizontal can we possibly be happy.
What if we there was only life? Our life, which is made up of many parts, one of which is this thing we call work. What if we didn’t need to keep work and life separate but could integrate them into one harmonious whole?
You may wear many hats, but you wear the same head under each of them. You are always you, and everything you do is part of your life, wherever you are and whoever you are with. How would your life be different if you began to perceive everything in it as part of the same thing?
I will only offer a brief answer to this question, for reasons that will become abundantly clear.
When the document you’ve spent all morning writing suddenly, for no discernable reason, turns from reasonable English prose to gibberish and strange characters, some of which may be Chinese, how do you react? If I was working in an office with others, I’m sure I’d be fuming and enlisting help and sympathy from everyone around me. I could probably build an hour-long conversation and moan-fest around it, and someone would offer me tea and biscuits.
But when the only living being around is a rabbit, and he’s out in an uninviting rain-soaked and windswept garden, what do you do?
- Sigh loudly (although even that’s unsatisfying when there’s nobody to hear you).
- Fiddle around ineptly for a few minutes trying to fix it, without success.
- Give up and eat lunch. (Not the healthy one you were planning but leftover spaghetti followed by toast because it’s quick and easy and annoyance has made you hungry.)
- Return bottom to chair and begin the whole document again, saving every thirty seconds just in case. Because there aren’t any other options.
Would it have been cathartic to share the irritation with other people, or does working alone make you more stoic, more likely to shrug and get on with things? And which is better?
I shall mull this over while repeating a whole morning’s work.
- Spending the days in a place where you truly belong.
- A walk during the day: exercise, fresh air, and a chance to actually meet some of the neighbours rather than driving past them in the dark mornings and evenings and never speaking.
- No dress code, no need to wear uncomfortable shoes all day. (But always get dressed. The postman will thank you.)
- When a job’s done, it’s done. No need to “look busy” until 5pm.
- A hot jacket potato instead of a cold sandwich for lunch.
- The comfort of being at home.
- Being able to visit a shop during the working day instead of on Saturday with everyone else.
- Building connections: with a place, with the people around you, with yourself.
It’s about having roots, belonging, being able to be a whole person. Who I am at work is who I am at home, because I don’t have to carve myself into different-shaped pieces. I can shape my home and my life to fit me and my family.