Photo by Markus Winkler
What is it about taking your own advice that is so difficult?
There’s some sort of paradox at play that makes it easy (relatively) to give solid, helpful advice to just about anyone, but makes it 10x harder to follow for yourself.
And that’s a nuisance because of all the people in the world, you are uniquely positioned to see what you actually need at any given time.
. . .
Over the last week I made a mistake. I let a situation stretch out for just a little too long and in that extra space, people inevitably filled in the gaps themselves. Rationally, I knew this might happen, but. . .
(Just for context, the situation involved a group of students where one or several had been less than ideal in how they had treated each other. Each of these students had a parent, and each of these parents had a social media account.)
If I’d been chatting this situation over with a colleague when it first emerged, I would have said something like, “get on the front foot and sort it out as quickly as possible. If you let it sit unresolved, someone is going to throw some petrol on the simmer and that won’t be good.”
But, here I find myself 10 days later and only now have I managed to work through to a resolution. The simmer did indeed burn a little brighter than it needed to.
. . .
So, what stopped me from acting more quickly?
My reflection is simply that I didn’t get my priority order straight, and that led to running out of time/energy. The last fortnight has seen a number of unexpected pieces of work crop up, mostly around people not behaving as well as they normally would (Steve talked about the current ‘niggly’ vibe last week), and that, combined with the most pedantic, time wasting audit process I have ever been subjected to, was that.
Each situation required time, energy, and wisdom, and despite knowing better, I dealt with some of the less complex ones first. By the time I handled the ‘smaller’ issues each day, I’d run myself out of time and energy, and guilty confession here – I may have run myself slightly out of my work ban hours too . . .
You’d think I’d know better, and the really crazy thing is that I did!
. . .
For ages now, a common 40 Hour Project theme has been to get very clear about what matters most, and to stick to that work as a priority. But in this instance, I let the unexpected work trump the important work and I’ve been thinking about how to make this less likely to happen again as the adventure of Term 2 unfolds – how do I keep my priority list straight?
What I’ve decided to try, is to put a scheduled 5 minutes into my morning routine to write a brief ‘shopping list’ type visual reminder for myself. I’m going to do it on paper, and I’m going to use it as a touchstone throughout the day. I know this may sound like just another bog standard ‘list’, but the difference for me will be the 5-minute daily recreation and the habit I’m going to try and build around checking it.
Let’s see how this goes.