Turning things upside down

June 21 2020


To observe something dispassionately, giving the subject some distance, it is really powerful to either look at it in a mirror or take a photo of it. You can also sleep on it and come back to it some hours later. You see things quite differently when you look at them from another angle or after a stretch of time. These are techniques that allow artists to take a step back and see their work afresh. It also works for your business.

During the lockdown period we have all been able to view things from a renewed perspective. It could be that a slower pace of life has created space for a new-found zest for gardening (guilty) or marathon training (not guilty), you might be enjoying a new dynamic within your immediate family, your working day might have shifted to allow for some home schooling or you might be sticking to that all-important daily walk we were allowed at the beginning of the pandemic.

However the shape of your work life has evolved, there are probably some parts that you want to take forward and some that you will be glad to leave behind. Personally, my lockdown legacy is to work a hard and long 4-day week so I can enjoy the luxury of a 3-day weekend. This has required some additional planning and a more focused day.

My resolve to work in a more contained way means I am not at liberty to take every phone call that comes in and this has been freeing in itself. If I have a piece of work planned, I don't take disruptive calls and I don't keep responding to the beep that tells me I have a new email or text message. I am working on developing my focus, old school style, and ignoring the distractions as far as possible. All calls get answered and all emails get read and responded to, but in my own time. It is liberating. As is a 3-day weekend - which is a great motivator for starting and finishing a project in the time allocated. And it's so much more achievable without the uninvited communications. 

At some point in the last 20 years we decided that we need to respond instantly to the increasing numbers of email, text and calls. I don't know why that is but I suspect it is associated with an ingrained feeling of pleasure that we have been contacted, for whatever reason - the digital equivalent of the sound of letters dropping on the doormat. Whatever the motivator for our Pavlov-esque response, I am enjoying unlearning it and being more mindful of the work in hand. Hopefully it's leading to better quality work too - less clutter and fewer butterflies in my head and more single-track focus on my production.

We have felt the relief of moving meetings to a virtual platform, negating the need for train and car travel and giving ourselves much more time. I've often spent the day travelling to and from a city location for an hour's meeting.

There have been lessons learned in lockdown that we are privileged to have experienced. Despite the tragic hits on health and the worry of less wealth, we have lived through an eye-opening period of time that is a one-off. We are able to take so many lessons away from it. I've heard many stories of how people have embraced the post-war feeling, baking their own bread and growing their own vegetables, living a more simple life. In the main we have spent less and created more.

The silver streak in my cloud has been the revelation that time, as a commodity, can be flexed to accommodate our lifestyles. We can live to work and not work to live if we think hard enough about how we do this. I've been doing the same hours for 32 years with very little time off. I'm re-shaping those well-worn grooves to make way for new plans and fresher thinking. I recently read that the perfume company 4160 Tuesdays is so named as that's the average number of Tuesdays we're likely to experience in our lifetimes. That is a sobering thought. I want all my Tuesdays to count!

My good friend Abbey says that we shouldn't invest time in things that don't make our heart sing. It's a wise message and one I am flying the flag for. I love my work, I am lucky to have found a vocation that I thoroughly enjoy, that challenges me and gives me access to lots of business sectors, a cast of thousands and many experiences. But I know that my lockdown legacy will make me more contented and enjoy my work even more if I am reducing my working week by a fifth and shunting that time into my weekend - and most likely my garden.

I have a client who has experienced a whole new business model since lockdown and she no longer needs to start her day at 4am. I imagine that will continue, going forward, and she will mould things to suit her preferred timetable. My daughter's employer Cooper Parry  (always in the Times Top 100, at around 8th), has extended its already generous and flexible working culture as productivity actually improved whilst the audit teams worked from home.

Not everyone has the luxury of setting their own hours or changing how they work - this is my own experience and an individual response to living and working through the Coronavirus pandemic. There does seem to be some common threads running through how everyone is feeling right now though. More value being placed on the simple things being the one I hear most. It's refreshing to look at things differently but I wouldn't be surprised if these months don't leave a universal legacy of their own. 

This entry was posted on June 21, 2020

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