Are you focused on the future? Or just thinking you are!
A question for you. In your current role, are you actively working towards your future? The reason I ask, is that I thought I was, and then I realised, I wasn’t as much as I thought I was… I’ve made a simple change to my daily working practices and it has made a massive difference and has put me in a far stronger position.
Before moving on, I want to share a favourite quote from Socrates, or So Crates if you are a fan of Bill and Ted 😊
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”
It’s a fairly obvious and innocuous statement on the surface, but when you really start to think about it, it is actually far more meaningful than it seems at the initial glance.
I am fortunate enough to lead a great team, with great people, working in what I believe to be a great organisation. Throughout the organisation there are other great teams with equally great people… you get the picture, right? But sometimes, like in any role in any organisation, you can feel like you are sinking under day to day and operational, crud, let’s call it that. We’ve all been there… people keep inviting you into conversations to help work out this or resolve that etc. and at times when those elements get to the point where they are coming in thick and fast it can feel somewhat overwhelming.
But when that becomes normality, then it can start make you feel like you are not making any progress, your sinking, you can’t cope, you’re no good at your job and so on... and that is a bad place to find yourself in. If your mind gets into a bad place, it will affect your attitude, to quote Henry Ford this time “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”
50% of my time should really be put towards maintaining a stable ship, to make sure everyone has what they need and the support they need, to do their job, to work towards having a happy team who are all developing either personally or technically, and who will represent the organisation in the professional way it should be.
The other 50% is to focus my time and effort should be on developing the team and working on making the team and the organisation better, stronger and more efficient. Working towards the next strategic marker or milestone, looking at smarter ways of working, looking at what the trends are in the professional and technical arenas in which we operate… What do we need to address or plan for, what skills are we going to need to bring in or develop? That stuff is what will future proof the organisation and develop it into the organisation for the coming years. So, I have to make sure that at least 50% of my time is working towards that goal, that future.
For me there was a recent period just like that, and I was struggling to see the way forward, blinded by the continual involvement in a myriad of things, and I needed to get a hold of the situation and handle it differently. Over week off, my mind straightened itself out and I came back with a different plan and a different approach.
For years I have been colour coding my calendar in Outlook (which incidentally now nicely appears in Teams too!) and I had categories for internal meetings, client meetings, admin, focus time and documentation etc… it was all very centred on the type of work I was doing… and at a quick glance I knew what the day or week held in store for me. But I decided to try changing that colour coding/ categorisation to something a little different.
I removed almost all the categories and I replaced them with a very simple system. I colour coded, anything in Green as working towards the future, anything Orange as operational, Purple for client meetings and so on… Why? Because every day, every week, every time I open my calendar or go to join a meeting, I am presented with an instant view of whether I am treading water, or if I am in fact actively working towards this better future, towards change.
Now, from the moment I reworked those categories and looked at my calendar again, it was a real slap-in-the-face, eye opening, metaphorical dressing down and it was showing me that I was not spending anywhere near enough time working on making things better/ improving things or building anything for the future… and in return, nothing was going to change, because I am not putting enough effort in to changing it … I’d been putting most of my energy in to standing still …
How simple is that? Just by looking at the calendar, I can now see clearly where I am focusing my efforts.
And so, we find ourselves back with Socrates/ So Crates. “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” … now boil it down…
“The secret of change is to focus your energy on the new”
What a bloody genius! Of course, in reality, I can’t just drop the operational stuff and leave that unattended, but it has made me take a serious look at what I am doing and that maybe I should stand back more and look at whether those operational tasks and issues are really right to be sat with me. Maybe that fantastic team of people, I mentioned early on, can help more here, maybe they want to take greater responsibility?
Why I am getting involved? Do I need to be involved? or am I getting involved just because someone has asked me to? It is all too easy to not challenge meeting invites, or to think that you need to be involved so you know what’s going on… but it is also far too easy to fall into the trap of working by committee, that is something very different to working collaboratively, and working by committee is a real and great threat to productivity.
I have preached this ‘simple revelation’ to anyone who will listen, mainly at my team and my peers and it has been incredibly well received… it is such a simple change and yet it has really made a difference to my role and to my productivity. I open my calendar every day with a very different mindset, one focused on where I/ we want and need to go. I go in to every meeting knowing if I am moving forward or dealing with something that needs to just be done and got out of the way.
If my calendar is not green enough, I look at what needs to make way for me to achieve that. I am resolved not to get bogged down in the operational stuff to the point where I am not working my way towards the future. Give it a try…