Last Thursday, I offered a challenge to view Halloween as an opportunity for transformation. The central idea was to use the imagination of season to test our limits. I suggested that we use one day, the day after Halloween, to confront our assumptions about what we’re not good at and experiment with new skills. And, if we couldn’t get to great, to try to get to better in an area we’d normally avoid.
Today, I took up my challenge. Feedback I received last week as part of Team Management Systems training confirmed an asset I overuse and a development area I avoid. The “major role” I love to play on teams is creator/ innovator. I love ideas and hardly ever think there are enough. Energy in work comes from figuring things out and problem solving. Often I see many possibilities to get from here to there. The role I like to avoid is concluder/producer. Must I shut down ideas just because I have to get something done? Do I have to squash the creativity of moving from possibility to possibility by sticking to priorities and deadlines? Of course I do. It’s just not my preference. So, my stretch into this area for today was 1) set goals for things that must be done 2) place energy into priority areas and 3) stay present.
This may seem easy to you, but it was a tall order for me.
My Scary Day
I started this task last night to avoid any morning distractions. First, instead of a list of all the things I wanted to do today, I narrowed it down to three “must do’s” in priority order. I built in a reward of one hour to do whatever I wanted after the priorities were completed.
When I started on my top task this morning, the insidious pull of other possibilities tugged at me right away. Waiting for a long document to come off a printer, I thought: I could file some stuff, just while I’m waiting. Nope. Been down that road before. I could see the future. Forty-five minutes later I’d be reading an interesting article, dashing off emails to people whose cards I’d found and looking for new labels. There would be a pile of paper at the bottom of my printer and no progress. Today I made a different choice: just breathe deep and wait for the printer.
Document in hand, I changed locations to work on my big task. The small ring to notify me of every new email would be too much; the temptation of social networks just a click away too great. I moved to a different room and put myself in full airplane mode: everything with a battery switched to off.
An onslaught of scattered thoughts made a last ditch run at me. Did I charge my phone? What if I need my phone and it’s not charged? Don’t forget to thank Stephanie for the tickets. The play was terrific. I wonder if anyone came to my blog today? Need to find that article on learning moments of need. Instead of “five minutes” to take care of each of these random tasks, I wrote them down on a pad of paper next to me. Something amazing happened. Poof! As fast as they arrived, they disappeared.
After the first five minutes of discharging distracting thoughts, focus came easy. I got into a flow and was able to give my top task complete concentration. To my surprise, this producing was fun! I completed the work on time with less difficulty than expected.
On a roll, I finished my next two priorities and got to my reward of a free hour. I didn’t expect to arrive at this point with energy. It felt lighter to have my biggest priorities behind me, instead of carrying the don’t forget rocks around all day. What I expected to be a burden of wrapping up a big project turned out to be an unexpected boost to my day.
Staring Down the Monster
I have vivid childhood memories of asking my parents to check for monsters under my bed. (C’mon, I can’t be the only one!) Waves of relief came with their assurances of all clear. On this day after Halloween, I think my efforts to stretch into places I didn’t want to go is something like that. I’m glad I challenged the monster assumption that I would neither like nor be good at an opposite work preference. Like the dark empty space under my bed, there was really nothing there.
I’d love to learn your story of how you’ve continued the Halloween opportunity for transformation; to try out new preferences. It’s never too late to scare yourself.
To find out more about Team Management Systems, check out the TMS Americas website at http://www.tms-americas.com.