How are you, Joe?
I am SO busy. There is so much going on. I can’t wait for this busy time to be over and we must get together for some lunch and a catch up.
Three months pass…….
How are you Joe?
I am SO busy.
When will it be a quieter so we can meet?
I don’t know anymore……
There was a time when we could step off the treadmill when the deadline was over. There was a time when the ‘busy time’ would pass and a quieter time would follow when we could do outstanding work, go to gym and catch up with old friends. There was a time when we faced problems that we thought we could solve or had solved in previous roles.
We are starting to notice however that the treadmill does not slow down any longer. We need to keep running as hard and as fast as possible just to keep up with the demands of our work and family. We may also need to solve more problems with unprecedented levels of complexity and consequences. We have to influence more widely in matrixed organisations and with a broader audience of stakeholders.
We describe this new reality as ‘working in intensity’
Based on the increasing number impacted by depression, burnout and anxiety disorders, it is clear that we are not adapting quickly enough to survive and thrive in the new levels of intensity.
How do you remain effective in intensity?
The starting point is to see and accept the new reality.
The new reality
It is busy. There is so much to do. You may well be doing more than one job. It is not only you who is busy. It is more complex and yes you do need to communicate with all the stakeholders. You do need to solve problems that are more complex than before. And yes the consequences are larger. This is the way it is now and is likely to continue.
You want to accept the intensity and find a new way of being in this intensity that allows you to live the life you most want to live. You want to accept the new reality and go with it rather than fighting against it.
Acceptance of this intensity will allow you to explore and chose new ways of thinking and behaving in the new reality. Fighting against is likely to lead to burnout OR you may find yourself left behind or pushed aside in your career.
Did you know?….. a cross section of a human hair is round while a cross section of a springbok or gemsbok hair living in extreme heat is triangular. The triangular hair reflects the heatwaves and allows the springbok to survive and thrive in extreme heat.
We too need to find our way of ‘reflecting the heat’ so we can survive and thrive in intensity.
Beginning the adaption
When we accept the new reality, we will want to explore new ways of thinking and behaving in this reality. The exact adaption will depend upon your personal circuimstances and role. We however have noticed three areas that are useful for most people and roles.
- Clarity on outcome
As the world on the outside gets more complex, we need to have more clarity on the inside. This clarity includes what we are trying to achieve in our work and in our lives. Clarity on outcome allows each of us to choose what to focus on and how best to use our precious time. We want to break down our bigger goals into monthly, weekly and daily tasks so that on a daily basis we have clarity.
This applies to teams too. Every team member needs clarity on what they are trying to achieve and how failure to achieve their goal will impact the whole team.
In times of intensity, we need to have clarity about what we are trying to achieve in the short and medium term.
- Focus of attention
We are so distracted by the endless stream of messages and emails. We also spend hours in our heads, distracted by the useless chatter of our inner voices – our opinions, considering others’ opinions and worrying. We don’t focus our attention on what matters in this moment. We are knowledge workers and as such we are paid to think. We need to explore ways to allow more complex thinking and meaning making to emerge. We need to surround ourselves with the best minds in the business and be completing present to the problem at hand. We need to contribute at higher levels.
In times of intensity we need to learn to focus our full attention on the complexity in front of us, if we are to have a chance of thriving.
- Self regulation
Our book shelves may be full of self help books and our folders full of interesting ideas of how to help ourselves to be thinner, calmer and healthier.
In times of intensity you have to actually do what they suggest. You have to have habits and ways to self regulate. This includes releasing the frustration that built up during the day, finding time to get to the gym to stay strong, quieting the mind by stepping into your body through attention exercises.
You need to have energy to work in intensity so you need to find ways to ensure your energy tank is full.
Intensity requires calmness and focus of attention. You need to find ways to have calmness and clarity of mind.
Just like a soldier prepares for battle so you too have to be fit and calm for the intensity.
In times of intensity, you need to have find ways to self regulate and fill up your energy tank and remain calm.
We, as humans are going to have to find our own ways to adapt and thrive in intensity. We are going to have to support and guide our children, direct reports and teams to survive and thrive in intensity.
Are you ready for the new reality?