DYBW – 2

Doing Your Best Work (2 of 4)

For the first post in this series of four


This is the second post in the Doing Your Best Work series.

So here was the dilemma I laid out in my last post:

I’d written a book for people overwhelmed by busyness. They were not able to do their best work because they were too busy.

And then I found that some of my clients did not have time even to read it!

So I realised that some consumed material on-the-go and online. Some even preferred these media.

So I developed an online workshop. I deliberately called it a workshop, not a course, because there were two things I did differently:

  1. I met almost-weekly online with the delegates as a group, in discussion about their particular challenges and stumbling blocks; and this led me to
  2. Tailored and reshuffled material as we went along.

The workshop ran over eight weeks. Over this time, delegates began to replace old habits with new ones. Quite a conversation developed within the group. Encouraging stories circulated.

And if someone couldn’t make a particular live session, we recorded it and put it up online for them to review later.

(Note: I was tempted to end that last sentence with the phrase ‘at their leisure’ just now, but I stopped myself. For some workshop participants, when they began leisure was the last thing they had! Leisure had become for some a dim and distant memory! Until, of course, they began to practice some of the approaches I shared.)

So what did I discover during this online workshop? Here’s a short video summarising what I found:

First, it reinforced for me that for many the real challenge is dealing with distraction. Most of us are well-intentioned, but many things distract us from our work to take us away from what matters most. I read an article about this recently entitled Weapons of Mass Distraction. I thought this was a very telling title! Social media, for example, can offer us much, but if uncontrolled, it can create unwanted inroads to our attention. The same is true for emails, and the phones we must now carry around with us.

But what is a distraction? It is anything that interrupts you, competes for, or threatens your undivided attention on that task or person that you need to be fully focused upon at that moment.

So that’s what the shift was for many: a change from distraction to focus. And people enjoyed the feeling that permission to focus gave them, and from the positive outcomes of focused work.

There was another shift I noticed: from thrashing to traction.

Thrashing, or busyness without productivity – the personal experience of spinning wheels in our work – is usually associated with multi-tasking.

And it’s such a waste.

Ellen, a former nurse, was a delegate on one of my Organising Yourself More Effectively workshops in London. At one point, she firmly disagreed with my view on multi-tasking. Ellen felt that multi-tasking was more productive for her. She said she even enjoyed it. She found it energising. It felt so productive.

This is interesting.

Because the science says the opposite.

Multi-tasking is, in fact, switching; rapidly switching between two or more tasks. The brain can’t focus on two things at once, but it can switch between those two things. (In fact, and machine code level, that’s what computers do too.) However, the impairment of performance for a human brain is quite dramatic. This has been measured and demonstrated again and again in different studies.

But, Ellen made a special case for nursing. She claimed that when she was a nurse, she had to multi-task. That was the way she was trained. She could only survive in that role if she did.

Again, that’s interesting.

Because nursing was one of the skill groups that the Dreyfus brothers went on to study with their skill acquisition model. What they found was that nurses grew in skill, not by learning to multi-task so much as to prioritise in the moment. In a crisis, an expert nurse knew what matter or patient to attend to first; whereas the advanced beginner might not.

Our perceptions can deceive us.Multi-tasking is a dangerous myth. Even for nursing.

This is another transition we see: from thrashing/switching to the art of productive prioritising.

At a deeper level, people appreciate this material because it relates to the way they see themselves. It’s another transition that I can explain later: from being a driven victim to purposeful freedom.

And fundamentally, that’s what motivates me to offer this material: freedom. I want people, knowledge workers, in particular, to free themselves from the captivity to overwhelm. For example, we practice a technique that pulls work through rather than being pushed by it. Emotionally it can have a powerful effect on the way we see ourselves and our work.

Now, I only run the workshop a couple of times each year, and I only open bookings on the Leading Yourself online workshop for a few days, because it works by taking a group together through the material. As I’ve said, it’s an online workshop. It works better when people can be part of a group discussion.

If you are interested in joining a like-minded group of individuals who want to become more self-managed, self-led, and effective, then I will be opening the workshop for another group in the next few days.

For now, though, go ahead and register your interest here, and I will let you know when the workshop is open for registrations.

Do you recall what the trainer said on my first time management course?

When it comes to time management, we are all recidivists.

That bothers me. How do we create a work culture where we support each other and all keep each other sharp in this matter of doing our best work?

That’s what I’ll explore in my next post, the third in this series of four.

One final question:

Have you ever worked with a group of like-minded peers on mastering a skill together? Was it a growing and positive experience for you? Please use the form below and tell me about it. I’m really interested.

Because I’m still learning.

Yours ever,