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The Art of the Changeover

Posted On - 24/03/2016 13:04:55

Ever gone to work without your wallet? Only to find you've got it – you just can't remember picking it up. Ever driven somewhere and not remembered the drive? Opened one email, and only stopped opening others a half hour later when the phone rang?

Every day all the time we function calling on non-conscious routines. Call it getting in the groove, whatever, these are our ‘know how' – stuff we've learned and can depend on. They exist for good reason. But when it comes to managing time they get in the way...

Chop-chop, busy-busy, work-work, bang-bang

It's a full day. A repair carried over from yesterday, three more booked in for today. A quote to complete. Some calls to make. Oh, and a site visit to install a new desktop. Plenty to do, need to get on. Your goal? Complete the list! Get to the end of it delighting as many customers along the way as you can. What else is there?

We're not saying there is another goal - what you're trying to do is right. The issue is you'll do much of it all using non-conscious routines. And chasing your goal means you'll go from one task to the next - because it's next. But is it right? More, is it still right?

What's the beef?

"Is it right?" What do you mean: "Is it right"? I'll just decide! Mmmm, will you now?

Understand this: you're in no state to decide, you're not thinking straight. You can't just snap-your-fingers and choose. It doesn't work like that. You're under huge pressure. You're eager to please, you feel guilty about that job from yesterday, you're anxious about the site visit. You're being driven by emotions. You're not thinking rationally. And where's the sense in wasting time brooding and pondering over what to do next? That's indecisive! We never said this would be easy.

Harder than it looks

Non-conscious routines exist to help us. Having them means once they're learned our minds are alert to do other things. Remember, we're full of evolutionary baggage about why we behave the way we do. We're all a lot more 'instinctive' than we think.

Being able to clear our conscious to look out for threats makes sense. Problem is while that's where our survival instincts may want us to be, it's not how we need to act. The only way to genuinely – rationally – keep on top of our day is to barge into our consciousness from time to time. And to give ourselves the space to get our feelings into perspective. The question is how?

Carp diem!

How do you go about snapping out of your non-conscious routines? How do you create psychological space between you and what you're doing? It starts with recognising the most precious time you have is that between finishing one task and starting the next. Once you get that - once you genuinely believe this matters - you can seize it.

How? By deliberately taking time – several minutes if needs be - to stop, consider, justify and reflect back to yourself if what you'd originally planned to do next is still right. It means literally proving to yourself the choice you are about to make remains correct.

Doing this will feel awkward. It should. In fact it should feel like a wrench. Your brain doesn't want you to think like this, just carry on doing what you were. And you think it's stupid – wasting time so you can be more effective!? It doesn't make sense.

This should jar. It should feel wrong. Yet it really is worth the pain. So you can avoid finding you're making that site visit when you should have rescheduled. Or you've spent time answering emails when you should have finished off that repair and got the job done same day.

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