My son has been waking me up nearly every morning the past few weeks promptly asking, “How was your nap daddy?” I started to think what it must be like to live life nap to nap. At 3 years old your life revolves around your parents, any siblings, extended family, and friends. There is no real need for days, the perception of time is continuous and measured by activities or visits from friends and family.
I’m convinced that my son has it right. At least, he is focused on the right things, family and friends, at the right time, all the time. Now I won’t pretend that my son has a choice all he knows are those things he sees and isn’t responsible for anything other than playing with his toys and cleaning them up, even if he doesn’t recognize the latter without some convincing.
Myself on the other hand, I live my life like most other people. I spend time with my family on the weekend and evenings and go to work Monday through Friday. My time is dictated largely by my responsibilities and work life, although shouldn’t be confused for my whole life, which from time to time I’m reminded of by my wife. Unlike my son, I have a choice. I have a choice in the evenings and on the weekends to disconnect and focus on the right things. It’s important to disconnect for a number of reasons among which is being a good example for my sons and to be sharp while at work as again, unlike my son, a nap just doesn’t cut it.
Are you focusing on the right things at the right times?
Disconnecting is really another way to describe the context switch between states of connectedness. The switch itself helps us refocus to the task at hand. Whether you lean back in your chair and stare at the ceiling, play a game with your kids, or read a good book disconnecting is key to helping you focus on the right things and the right times. After all, without disconnecting we can never really connect, unless you’re a 3 year old.
While commuting into work this morning, I noticed a car pulling up alongside me with a decided sense of urgency as the gap between the car in front of him turning off shortened and other exit options, slowing down or merging into the lane I was in, became less available. Perhaps he took for granted my level of awareness or the pressure in merging with limited runway made his brain shut off, because in a few seconds the driver made a decision contrary to the expectations of everyone on the road: he sped up and merged without using his blinker.
I make no judgement on the option he chose; then again, I didn’t really have a choice, but I was dismayed by the execution. I thought how irresponsible this man was and the negative impact his actions could have had. (I also conveniently ignored the fact I’d done the exact same thing in the past). It made me reflect though, why do we use blinkers? The meta answer is to act as a responsible member of society, being participatory in maintaining the safety of everyone else to ensure they make it where they are heading. The practical answer is we use blinkers because even though we know where we’re going no one else does.
How often do we fail to use our blinkers in the workplace?
As meticulous as I am about using blinkers in my car, I recognized that I have been less so in communicating on projects in the past. I settled on this being due to a lack of practice, although there is a myriad of reasons. Blinkers, on the other hand, we practice daily. They provide constant and consistent updates, blinking rapidly through the duration of the maneuver. Adopting the blinkers technique as a communication style (at the right cadence) serves its purpose well. It lets everyone else know where you are, what your ask is of them, and allows them to participate in the discussion.
Using a blinker is simple because it is habit. The expectations are clear about when they should be used and why, which highlights the contrasting behavior that leads to gaps in communication that are common in the workplace today. Effective communication is paramount and must become a habit in today’s remote, complex, cross-functional workforce. I rely on my peers to help make it to our joint destination, but have often not used my blinkers to give them the choice. Whether you blog, email, tweet, or host meetings to communicate, regular updates are key to ensuring everyone else knows where you are going.