I ‘m quite confident I am not alone when I report that it is becoming difficult to get up to running temperature these days. I am going to blame it on my middling attempts to transition towards an effective, lockdown working rhythm. Like that old car that needs nursing every morning to coax it to life, so too is it with my working life. And from what I hear from friends and clients, I am certainly not alone.
I know there are various celeb coaches and gurus out there who promise exciting breakthroughs with enticing consequences. I’m here to tell you that, while breakthroughs do happen, they are infrequent. Much of what my clients, friends, and yes, myself, get are glimmers of a gradually improving life. And this increase in the quality of life is not always appearing in ways we think it will, and it is perpetually arriving after long and hard effort. Yep, like my current work situation, and possibly yours too, it is a kind of siege war with every day feeling like a Monday. It would be very convenient if all our struggles we upended by glorious breakthroughs that come and go in a matter of second. Alas, you could weait a long time for one of those.
And maybe our breakthroughs are worth waiting for. But while we wait, let’s use our time wisely. Instead of waiting and thinking about why you are finding it so hard to focus or get motivated or organised in your work, for the fourth month in a row, let’s try something different.
Start with a breakthrough, and this is an easy one. Buy a cheapo whiteboard and pens. Now set it up and write down what you would like to change — focus, motivation, organisation etc. Then, once you write it down, set the whiteboard aside but still facing you. Now turn back to your computer and look at your agenda/calendar. If you don’t have one, smack yourself in the back of the head and then set one up — they are free to download or came with your computer. You didn’t get to where you are today in your life by not being focused, motivated or organised and you have not lost those capabilities during lockdown. What you have done is found yourself full of distractions and few of the pressures from work. Lots of carrot to do no work, and no stick to do good work.
Sadly I have to tell you that there is no breakthrough that will fix this situation. This is where you must dig in, even though every day feels like a Monday, and just grind out the work. Move the coffee fixings into your home office. Keep a day’s supply of snacks in your home office. Remove easy access to Netflix, Disney+ and all social networks from your computer. Turn your mobile off and put it in another room. You need to replicate even the unpleasant parts of the old workplace whenever possible. Use your surroundings to drive you to focus. Find what works best for you. Build and enforce a routine. You need to accept that the way forward is not by a moon shot, it is with a hard grafting and relentless daily grind that will gradually build discipline and focus. It may take some time. And however much time it takes, it will feel like it took much longer.
Like all work, nothing is worth doing if you can’t measure it. Log your hours. At the end of the week audit how you spent your week. I like to make a daily pie chart of how i spent my time and in each pie segment i highlight the outcome. At the end of the week highlight the change in a trend chart. You will find that you can easily quantify what things you did more of and what things you did less of over time. Make adjustments where required — this is the whole point of measuring things. In your first week you will be horrified as you discover you spend more time on the toilet than you do actually working! In fact, it is likely you will find six or seven things you do more of than actual work! These horrors are also why we measure. Why? Because we have trained ourselves to feel that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t matter.
You may recognise this method as similar to what some of those gurus use to achieve breakthroughs. We want you to be shocked by your own behaviours. We want you to be horrified by how far you have strayed from your ideals. But in this case the feelings of horror and shock are not planted on your lap by Tony Robbins, they are identified and proven by you. They are hard earned realisations that belong to you. You spilled blood for these revelations and so the impact is much greater.
The breakthrough you may have wanted at the start may be achieved but not in the way you had hoped. Instead of paying someone else to find your failings and build a breakthrough moment for you, you did the same for yourself… and got some work done while you were doing it. Your brain and your wallet are fuller. There are some short cuts of course — you can always hire someone like me to help you get set up and started, but in the end it is you who will deliver the goods.
The bottom line is that you cannot buy yourself out of everything, and not everything has a simple and quick fix. Some things you just need to grit your teeth and grind them out. This is one of the truest faces of resilience. It is as much a state of commitment as it is a state of mind.