A couple of weeks back Mike and I took a holiday to the Wairarapa, one New Zealand’s top Pinot Noir wine regions. Because the year’s activities have well and truly started I couldn’t completely ignore business, so on four of those seven days, for an hour or so each time, you’d have found Robyn and trusty laptop tucked away somewhere – in a pretty Bed & Breakfast at Greytown or around the garden or premises of the peaceful and elegant Martinborough Hotel, polishing off an article or dealing with urgent email.
One golden sunlit morning, as I sat under the ample shade of a sweeping walnut tree outside our hotel room, enjoying the luxury of a beautiful setting and the ability to happily despatch a few mails, a passing guest flippantly remarked: ‘What a waste of a lovely day!’
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this ezine for a while, I’m a great believer in the value of blocking solid chunks of time to enjoy uninterrupted quality time, to practice being present to the beauty of each moment, to limit pollution of our brain from an invasive and constant barrage of other people’s information. I absolutely believe that we need some days when the brain is free of work. So when the cheery fellow guest lobbed his casual challenge, my first reaction was ‘Oh my gosh! Am I being incongruent? Maybe he’s right!’
You might not agree with me, and that’s fine. But I came to the conclusion that there is no one right way, and what I was doing worked for me. If you look for the principle behind it, it was a great application of ‘chunking’, one of my BIG concepts.
Three prior days had been completely work-free. The computer hadn’t been fired up. We enjoyed travel, friends and family, a country race meeting, dining out, visits to vineyards, and more. The greatest strain on the brain was how to stick with my Weight Watchers regime in a food and wine paradise. (Successfully, I’m delighted to report, but that’s another story.) Total relaxation was the name of the game.
The following days were broken into smaller chunks which included a segment each morning to handle work matters. Once the top level tasks were done the computer was popped to bed and I switched back to holiday mode.
Here’s a thought. Who or what says work should be parcelled into this pigeon hole, not that? Who cares where the work is done? Is there a right or wrong time to work?
Your preferred pattern will probably be a bit different from many of those around you. My body clock happens to function really well with early starts. Emails and articles pour forth well before 6 am on many days. For me it’s the most productive time of the day, and yet, over the years I’ve taken a bit of flak about it. With a better understanding now of the value of listening to our own body clock, my response these days is ‘thanks, but I don’t agree with you’.
There is no one right way. We all have different rhythms and, especially in this interconnected age, much work can be done in non-traditional ways and times. For example, at the same hotel a semi-retired Australian couple were keeping their phone sales E-bay business running with an hour or so each day online. The rest of the time they were enjoying the delights of touring New Zealand.
The most important thing is that our work is done, not when. Let’s become results-based rather than clock-based.
And what defines work?
I find it really useful to regularly review my activity with the following questions:
- What are the key performance indicators in my work?
- What brings the money?
- What are the results that I must have in order to do my job well?
You might like to consider how many hours per week really need to be spent on these matters. Everything else is background, often very necessary background, but nonetheless background. Problem is, lots of folk get hooked on the ‘background’ tasks and the core tasks are pushed back to ‘I’ll get to that when I have time’. (If this is an issue for you, check out ‘Getting a grip on time’. The first half of the book gives a very practical simple method of planning and prioritising.) Or, maybe you could delegate a lot more.
One word of caution, however. Beware of becoming hooked in to working early, late, and everything in between. When we forget to take time for ourselves, our loved ones, and all aspects of our health, we’re on the slippery slope to burnout and ill-health, let alone potential loss of intimate relationships, wealth and friends.
How does this thinking apply in your workplace?
- What are your best places and times to work?
- When do you do your most productive work?
- What work really matters?
- Which activities bring the best results?