The End of A Chapter

Today I closed a chapter in my professional life. Saying goodbye to a client is not always easy and sometimes the circumstances make it harder to bear and produce a level of uncertainty and anxiety. But in the midst of uncertainty there can be opportunity. One must learn the lessons that are there to be learned and seize the opportunity to build again, stronger and more effective than before. If you are not overcome by it, it will only make you more resilient.


Let Your Life Speak — Parker J. Palmer (2000, Jossey-Bass)

Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

The Score

There are a couple of metrics I use to judge the value of a book.

  1. To what degree does it change the way I think, live or make decisions? (5/5)
  2. How likely am I to immediately buy copies for friends? (5/5)
  3. What is the quality level of the book (author’s credibility, quality of writing, reliability of research and information)? (5/5)

Based on those questions, I have scored this book with marks out of 5 and taken an average as the final score of its value. (i.e. 15/3 = 5)

For Let Your Life Speak, I value it as a 5/5 book.


Start Early

One of the most frustrating things I’ve found is having little time to do important work.

When you know you’re capable and have the ability to perform the activity well, it will be frustrating when you have to compromise on your ability to execute because of inadequate time.

To avoid this, whatever you commit to, ensure you start early — start even before the appointed time. Do whatever you can to give yourself the advantage of time. This will enable you to truly execute in accordance with your highest potential.

Just start early.


The job you like

One of the worst things that could happen to you is not that you end up in a job that you hate, but that you end up in a job that you like. These kinds of jobs are convenient, easy, and comfortable. They are a distraction, distracting you from the job that you love.

Recognise these detractors for what they are and have the courage to persevere for the role in life that you can truly obsess over.


…I was obsessed with my work — Bill Gates

Man, although I don’t recommend all-nighters, I do recommend being obsessed with your work—whatever it is. Not to the point of pulling all-nighters, but instead getting the best sleep possible so you can give even more energy, brain power and creativity to it.

If you’re not obsessed with your work, be brave enough to consider exactly why you are doing it, and whether that reason is sufficiently explains how you want to be spending your life.

NB: The review goes on to reveal that Bill no longer feels sleeping a lot is lazy.


Daily Down Time

Planning down time into your schedule is as important as any other task or event you could put on your calendar.

Productivity is stressful.

Down time allows you to stop spinning on the wheel of productivity for a little while in order to recuperate, put your brain into a less active mode, decompress and lower your stress.

Depending on what exactly you do in the day and what your daily work involves, this could involve anything from a walk in a nearby wood, to sitting on the sofa catching up with a TV programme. I try not to read during down time as I don’t want to use a lot of brain power during this time.

The point is – schedule something easy that you can mindlessly do a couple of times a day. This helps with motivation and may reduce your chances of being burned out and eventually exhausted by your taxing schedule.


Chaos Control

Everybody works differently. For me, I find I am more productive when I have a well thought out and structured approach to my work.

Some people like to jump right in and start tackling things right off the bat. Others, like me work best when we have taken the time to build parameters, systems and process around what we have to do before we begin.

This approach is obviously time consuming but I find it is time well spent as it allows me to draw up some boundaries and develop a structured approach to execution which as a result gives me some clarity on what I need to do, how I need to go about it and makes my execution a matter of following the plan and process that I’ve spent so long formulating.

When I face resistance to a particular project, sometimes it’s because I have not spent adequate time building out the structure and process that will enable me to tackle the chaos with clarity.


Two Types of Work

There are two types of work – Strategic Work and Business as Usual (BAU).

These two types of work have different goals and outcomes and can be applied personally and professionally.

BAU is the kind of work that keeps things ticking over.

BAU is about maintaining the status quo and meeting the day to day demands of current responsibilities.

At the BAU level, we answer emails, we collaborate with others, we finish projects on time and we give our best efforts to those we serve.

BAU is where most people spend their day — because executing well against BAU keeps us out of trouble.

But there is another kind of work which is not so much about surviving as it is about thriving — what we call strategic work.

Strategic work is about moving the needle; pushing the envelope; moving to the next level.

Strategic work is the kind of work that raises the ceiling of your BAU.

Strategic work includes learning and development, reviewing and refining our modus operandi, conceptualising and executing against new initiatives that produce change and growth.

Essentially, whatever your BAU, the expectation is that successful execution in strategic work will eventually raise the ceiling of your BAU resulting in a higher set of BAU altogether.

Another distinguishing factor is that there are often consequences for failure to execute BAU work whereas there are typically low or no consequences with failing to execute strategic work – hence why it is so easy to ignore.

I want to implore you to spend up to half (or at the very least a quarter) of your professional and personal time each day in strategic work.

When you schedule your day, consider whether what you are scheduling is strategic work or BAU, and when you have categorised it thus, consider what time of day is best suited to it considering your mental, physical and emotional energy levels.

My advice is to prioritise strategic work at all times, at all cost, and on every single day otherwise you might wake up one day only to find that you have spent a vast amount of your life just treading water.