As I write this we are emerging from 'lockdown' after more than 4 months. During that time, like many of you, I've been working from home. The journey to work no longer includes checking if the train is running on time, dashing from the station to the office hoping to make it in time for the first meeting of the day, still able to breathe. There's no chatter in the lift about where people have been over the weekend or asking if someone is just back from their holiday abroad. Now there's just a short amble from the shower to the new desk in the living room. Log in, bring up the emails and diary for the day, and hope no-one wants a video call before your hair dries.
"In times of change the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists"
I always had worked at home one day a week, but it was very different. It was viewed as a time, by other people, when I wasn't available for meetings, and was able to get on with tasks that benefited from a lack of interruptions, and away from the office environment. Now, all of a sudden, everyone's working from home, and the realisation dawns that meetings still have to take place. And so there is a relentless stream of invites to virtual meetings. But the meeting discipline hasn't changed, so they still overrun and even though I don't leave my chair, I still manage to arrive late at the next meeting. This has to change.
And so, I did what I often do, I took in a change of scenery to do my thinking. I'd been listening to a whole range of people I work with saying how wonderful it was not to have the commute, but how difficult it was to feel motivated, and almost impossible to bounce ideas off other people online rather than in person. How they found they were in more meetings than ever, but getting nothing done. And then the big issue facing so many organisations, the lockdown had led to significant financial challenges that needed to be addressed. The more I heard and watched, the more frustrating the situation became. As social beings the impact of doing business over video rather than in person is huge. This is a time to learn.
When I'm coaching I prefer to meet clients somewhere they don't usually go. It might be an office in a different part of the building, it might be a walk in the park, or maybe a quite cafe. I know that if you want someone to think differently it is easiest if they are somewhere they don't usually go. If it has to be their office, then I get them to sit in a different chair. Sometimes the difference only needs to be small, to make the difference. So I took myself for a walk along the river, to watch the water flowing over the rocks, listen to the birds and notice how the season was changing.
"It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste"
Often, when we lack motivation, it is because we have not decided what it is that we want. We haven't set any goals. Instead we just show up each day, ruled by the calendar of meetings, and the things we think we are supposed to do. We settle into our routine, and even something as unprecedented as the Covid pandemic, has become somewhat routine. Many people are still treading water, and waiting to return to an office space so they can pick up where they left off, and things can return to the way they were. They haven't yet, let go of the past. They still see the past as their goal, rather than getting ahead; they know how to manage the past, and are beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
So my river walk helped me to form some goals. To create a purposeful future based on the best of all I've learned so far, and acknowledging those things I will still need to learn. To acknowledge the mistakes I've made, they have offered some of the very best learning experiences. To share generously, and show gratitude. Know that right is right, even when no-one else is doing it, and that wrong, is wrong, even if everyone else is doing it.
My diary is back under control. There is space for meetings that matter. There is no competition to be the busiest, after all, who wants to be the hamster running fastest round the wheel. What matters is what difference did you make today? So take your thinking our for a change of scenery, and see what you find.