A two-step programme to give yourself time to #JustBe

First posted on LinkedIn March 16, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

It strikes me that we fill our lives with stuff to do: reports to write, meetings to attend, emails to send, phone calls to make, presentations to prepare, endless lists of things to do…  And when we’re not at work, there’s endless lists of things to do too: our fitness regimes to maintain, our food to cook, our homes to clean, our children to drop off, our children to pick up, other people’s children to pick up, …

We allow ourselves to self-persecute; we allow our diaries persecute us; we allow our to-do lists persecute us.  I know people who love making to-do lists.  Their to-do lists even include “Get up” and, “Have breakfast” so that they can tick them off with a sense of achievement.  This I fear is a step too far.  You know it’s really gone too far when you start off a new to-do list with the item, “See other to-do list”.

Striving for efficiency

And even when you know this self-persecutory doing behaviour has gone too far, the only solutions out there appear to be aimed at doing things more efficiently: Smart Phone Apps that get you organised so you can do more, books that help you create an efficiency programme so you can do more, methods to take control of your email inbox so you can do even more…

I remember one of those personal efficiency type training courses I attended as a junior manager many years ago; we were shown how to categorise tasks into three types: ‘A’ tasks – those that our performance was measured against, ‘C’ tasks – those that were just stuff that came across our desks and ‘B tasks, which covered pretty much everything in between.  Then we were told that personal efficiency sprang from scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our diaries.  Who knew?  A colleague and I were paired up at the end of the course to keep in touch and check in with each other to see how we were getting on with scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our demanding work schedules.  So, I rang him a few weeks later to inquire into his progress.  “I’m far too busy to start with all that crap,” he replied.

We become victims entirely of our own making.

Finding time to #JustBe

What if you could find a way to balance all this doing with more of the being we need to rediscover ourselves.  It is said we are human beings after all, not human doings.  What if you could find the time to #JustBe.  Then you might just discover your life’s purpose, your Dharma.  This requires us to reject being a victim and to choose being vulnerable instead.  To choose our own potency over self-persecution.

And this starts with giving yourself permission to #JustBe.  There is a time to do and a time to be.  I like to think of each day as having three parts – a morning, an afternoon and an evening.  That’s 21 parts to a week.  Many of us are contracted to work for 10 of those, that’s less than half.  In reality, many of us are conditioned into working a lot more of them.

Step 1: Make a list of the things that help you #JustBe.  My list includes go for a walk, take a bath, play music.  Then schedule some #JustBe time in your diary.  Your diary will still be full of things to do, but now there’ll also be space to be too.

Step 2: Here’s the biggie.  Clear your diary.  I dare you.  Just thinking about doing it can be scary, vulnerable.  Liberating, isn’t it?  Your diary becomes an ocean of space to #JustBe.  You now have the choice to schedule in some things to do.  A choice.  All life is a choice.

Choose wisely.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

Three things The West Wing taught us about passion and resilience

First posted on LinkedIn March 11, 2016

I had the great privilege of working with a health sector client this week, where I will be facilitating a learning programme in business partnering skills for a newly formed professional finance team.  This was a launch event and the Finance Director, as sponsor of the programme, addressed the participants.  He spoke from the heart about what he’s looking for from his team, using series one of The West Wing as inspiration.

I have never seen The West Wing, however I am aware of Aaron Sorkin’s work through the films A Few Good Men and The Social Network, and the wonderful TV series The Newsroom.

Spoiler Alert: Series one of The West Wing is set mostly in the White House as newly elected Democrat President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) goes about running the world’s most influential superpower (the series was aired before 9-11).  There are a ton of political and personal issues to deal with and the series ends in an assassination attempt.

What does this have to do with finance, business partnering and developing great teams?

1. A clear sense of purpose

In The White House, the President hand picks his team.  This is everyone’s personal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do good.  Furthermore, the presidential team may only be together for four years, eight maximum.  In the show, they throw themselves in 100 mph.  Unlike some politicians – our speaker noted the series would not work in the UK as nobody would believe our PM cold be a hero –  Bartlet frames the team’s purpose as not to get re-elected at any cost, but rather to do good.  To set the direction they want to go and then to lead them on that path.  It is journey-based leadership rather than a destination-based goal

2. 100% commitment

This is about delivering on your promises.  There is a scene where it is getting late, near to midnight, and an aide has not prepared a brief that was promised ‘today’.  When challenged, he replies, “The day’s not over yet”.  Only if you deliver what you agree to deliver will you have the authority to advise and to influence others.  It requires 100% commitment.  It’s about being credible and reliable.

3. Challenge is crucial

You can imagine the behaviours that sometimes ensue in the pressure cooker environment of high Politics.  This is somewhat true for any workplace environment where power and politics play a significant role.  In The West Wing there is no animosity, however there is high challenge between senior leaders such as The Chief of Staff and the President.  In fact, Bartlet welcomes challenge to the point of hiring a Republican to bring challenge ‘up stream’ into the policy setting debates.  It’s business, it’s not personal, or as a colleague of mine often says, “Be tough on the issues and gentle on the people”.

And all of this is done with team members showing the utmost respect and support for each other.

So there it is – create passion and great teamwork through clarity of purpose, demanding 100% commitment and creating a climate of high challenge and support.  Easy to say, harder to do.  My goals for this team’s learning and development are clear, and we can work with that.

In The West Wing these three things went a long way to developing and inspiring the team, and helped to build the resilience the team needed in the face of everything the job threw at them, even bullets.

And as President Bartlet’s personal aide reflects later, “If they’re shooting at you, you know you’re doing something right.”

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

When did this journey truly begin?

First posted on LinkedIn March 2, 2016

There’s an old folk tale of a tourist visiting a monastery, where he was greeted by an ageing monk and invited in for tea.  While the old man prepared the tea, the tourist asked about the monk’s humble lifestyle – a simple bed, chairs and a table, a few books and a prayer mat, a basic cooker and no fridge.  “How do you manage to live like this?” asked the visitor. “No telephone, only a few clothes and no radio, let alone a TV or computer?”

The old man replied with a question of his own. “Where are your possessions?”

“Oh, I’m travelling”, the man responded.  “I’m just passing through.”

“We are all just passing through,” replied the monk.

I chose to spend much of the day today walking and reflecting.  With my partner by my side, I trekked through the moorland near my home, setting down some fresh tracks in the snow.  We had an idea of where we were heading, but the snow obscured the footpaths and we took several wrong turns as we passed through the glorious Yorkshire countryside.  We eventually descended the moor, found a pub for some lunch and later took a train back home again.

I feel blessed to be able to take a day out every now and again and just be.  Pause.  Reflect. Are we following our own path or someone else’s?  When did this journey truly begin?

And so it seems there are no such things as wrong turns, only paths we never thought we’d take.  And in the end, we’re all just passing through.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig