September newsletter - Busyness at work

Busy at work? What can we do about the tyranny of busyness? 

This month, I’m exploring busyness and burnout and ideas for handling this at work. I took some pictures of our dog Marty sniffing in the woods. He's a great reminder to slow down and be more creative by taking more breaks.

How can we be more focussed at work and make self-care a must have and not optional?

Self-care at work

One of my jobs is to go into organisations and coach people about resilience, grit, and self-care. However, I hear the same stories over and over:

  • I'm working harder than ever
  • I can't focus
  • Some of my team are "quiet resigning", and I'm likely to be next
  • I get it that self-care makes me work more effectively, but I have to prioritise my tasks, and I have to come second to what the organisation wants me to do
  • I desperately need a holiday to recharge
  • My organisation is good at providing wellbeing programs, but when do I have time to do any of this stuff?

We are all running crazily toward something. What are we running toward?
Some of these time pressure themes are examined in the classic book the Tao of Pooh. The ancient philosophy of Taoism is explored through Winnie the Pooh's and friends' eyes.
Pooh, a kind bear with little education, finds a note from Christopher Robbin. He finds it hard to read the message" busy back soon" and asks his wise friend owl to interpret. But unfortunately, owl is not as learned as he thinks. So he confuses the message and reads it as Christopher Robbin has been abducted by a fierce creature called "the Busy Backson", which leads Pooh and friends on a hunt to rescue Christopher Robbin from the Backson.
The Tao of Pooh explores complex themes about the importance of slowing down to reflect on what's meaningful and how to prioritise our tasks and focus our energy.

Creativity, and adding value happens when we create space

If you are a leader focussing on the next quarterly results, charging at the rollout of the next system, or new in your role and making immediate and drastic changes at work, there is a fair chance you are charging at the wrong thing.
You might affect change, but you might  be adding another straw which will break your team's back.
Time pressure or the perception of it has a significant impact on us. Over the last 18 months, I have enjoyed the luxury of seeing an existential therapist each month. She has helped me face up to my own need for speed, being busy and multiple projects in multiple places. 
But, like many people, my busyness masks a need for connection and validation. The state of feeling a time deficit, "too much to do and too little time," builds its own momentum. Many of us enjoy the stress which comes from working hard and connecting. But this always switched-on "drive state" is unhealthy and often leads to poor collaboration and decision-making.
There is a place in your organisation for resilience training, better organising meetings and feedback sessions and helping people become more emotionally agile. 

  • But there is an even greater need for leaders to encourage people to do the following:
  • Have strong boundaries - say no to work and set realistic expectations for delivery times
  • Learn to push back and say no to new client work when there isn't the capacity
  • Have honest conversations with the team about organisational priorities and values and how they align with individual goals and values
  • Walk the talk when it comes to self-care

When we create space for reflection at work, we are more creative, collaborative, and engaged. So, what can you do as a leader to make this change a reality?
There are some ideas for you and your team below.

Best wishes
Andy Roberts at Breathe London