Last week I overslept because the sky over San Francisco was still completely dark at 9:00 am. The smoke from the wildfires had covered the sun, and we spent the day in an apocalyptic orange glow. Strangely, I felt super energized. I’d just slept 12 hours!! I couldn’t help but smile as I bounced between tasks and moved quickly from despair to hope and productivity.
I’d bet that you’ve felt days such as these even if your world isn’t covered in the darkness of wildfire smoke. It’s just a heavy time. Most folks I know will say they are hanging on by a thread in business and in life. Enter the field guide to meet your apocalyptic days with vigor.
1. Put your Big Rocks in First
This concept, introduced by Stephen Covey and others, is simple but profoundly true.
If we have a jar that represents our time and energy, and we fill it up with the fine-but-less-important things (gravel!) then when we can find ourselves at the end of the day, week, or quarter not being able to fit in our most important things – our big rocks.
When we intentionally and regularly put our big rocks in the jar first, we’ll find we have more time and energy to squeeze in some of the other pieces.
It’s been really hard for me to focus lately – but I keep reminding myself of my big rocks this quarter – those few client projects that are priority, the daily time with my family, moving my body toward more strength, and the handful of friends and other commitments. Big rocks.
If you’re feeling the strong temptation to work 14-hour days, circle back to your non-work big rocks.
2. Permission to Feel all the Things
The most dangerous place to be hanging on by a thread is when we stoically pretend that the thread does not exist. Embrace the thread!
Too much work, not enough work, not going to meet those quarterly goals, forget about any chance your kid will be trick-or-treating, embrace it all.
Feel all the things. Because on the flip side of a moment of despair is hope. I can spin from despair to hope six times in one day. It can be dizzying at times, but feels strangely right.
3. Compact Everything
This is not the time for detailed three-year strategic plans. Have you noticed things are changing swiftly? Instead of letting the time acceleration spin you into anxiety, embrace it and make compacting your new business hack. This is not trying to fit everything that you would have done into a smaller time frame. This IS shortening the cycles of goal setting and delivering value.
60 minute presentation – give it in 6 minutes. If you’re doing a webinar longer than 20 minutes that has no interactive component, you’re missing the moment.
6 month planning doc – convert to a 6 week plan. I’ve heard schools talk about their long term plans, and then they commit to doing distance learning for the next six weeks to help everyone plan, even if they get the go-ahead to open in person sooner.
60 minute meeting – convene in 20 minutes. Challenge your team to get on the phone and talk through live decisions efficiently. Then create separate space for play and connection. Too much zooming!
4. Seek Alignment not Approval
My former self used to think that leadership was about getting everyone on board with the same plan – seeking approval for next steps. When I didn’t get that consensus, or ran into resistance, I would drain my energy trying to win over the nay-sayers, and construct elaborate rebuttals in off time, trying to create perfectly crafted arguments.
Now I try to listen carefully and openly to differences of opinion. Then, instead of seeking complete agreement on every matter, I seek to find alignment and overlap in what we both care about.
Just last month I found myself in a group dynamic that was so deflating because of the starkly contrasting ways we were engaging (or not engaging) with an issue I care about. I recognized, after another exhausting night, that it was time to cut ties and move on. I’m not talking about doubling down on dogmatic positions, like the polarization of our current political parties. AND I also must acknowledge the risk of confirmation bias – trying to catch myself googling “why xyz is bad”, or surrounding myself with only people with whom I agree.
Rather, once I’ve listened openly and checked myself for confirmation bias, I’m focusing on spending less time trying to win over the critics, and more time linking arms with others already doing the work. This is a critical skill in business and life – to create space for disagreement, and then seek alignment on a shared vision, not agreement.
5. Laugh at Absurdity
I found myself a bit giddy, with my 12-hours of sleep and a candle, reckoning with a crazy dark daytime in the midst of San Francisco.
It reminds me of my daily morning walk with my dog. At the highest point in our loop, where I can see over the city park, I raise my hands and give praise and thanks for another day (and try to stretch the computer hunching out of me). And more often than not, I’ve got a bag of dog poop in one hand as I raise both arms to the sky.
And that’s just the way we roll. Committing to raise our hands – even when some days include a bag full of poop.
Rising up and thriving with you,