Let me start with an interesting experience I had when I was interviewed by Tim Huiting in a posh five-star coffee shop for the Director HR job at Convergys almost thirteen years back. I went in expecting a set of interview questions focused on HR. But the first ball on the interview pitch landed too close to my stumps. Tim asked me as I picked up my coffee – “how much time do you spend in the week with your feet on the table?” I ducked for a few seconds behind the warm aroma of the coffee and then realised where the interviewer was going with this. I dug my bat right in time to edge the ball back. I said – “Well, I don’t keep my feet on the table, but I know exactly what you mean. I do spend at least four hours a week on the terrace of my office building with an unlit cigarette (never smoked), in my hand thinking – and just thinking! My team knows when I disappear where to find me.” That’s how we broke the ice even as some heavy HR domain balls kept coming relentlessly. When the interview ended, I had the job. Best interview of my life!
Through the years, I read a lot about success through productivity and spoke to some amazing business leaders and positive psychologists out there. One common trait that stood out among the greats, was that they spent planned thinking time every week as they went around their business and life goals. When I read the 2005 article in WSJ on how Bill Gates carved out the “think week” for himself – ‘a seven day stretch of seclusion to ponder over future of technology and other plans’ – it dawned on me that as executives hurtled along the path of making careers, delivering goals after goals and trying hard to balance personal priorities their cart wheels were getting creaky and too full of unbroken chain of thoughts. This became even more accentuated as the cart not only had goals, family priorities, personal ambitions in it but was also constantly being sprayed by a plethora of information from multiple channels, social media being one of them.
Suddenly everyone was an expert based on a ten second WhatsApp forward and almost everyone had something to say to a leader on how to deliver better. Well, it’s kind of nice for everyone to know how to pick the knife in the surgery room, but many leaders started facing burnout because now their hands were being guided on how to ‘perform the surgery’. And if the patient died on the operating table, the surgeon (leader) was obviously the one held accountable. As per a TLNT article, “while few executives publicly acknowledge burnout, researchers studying the issue say it’s more prevalent than previously thought. According to a 2013 study of senior managers and C-suite executives, about 75% CEOs and managers were perceived to be burned out,” but still carrying on.
As I took a broader look, I was concerned to see that the burnout rate in women was equally high if not more, who had transitioned from their executive hat or even after graduation to play the family nurturing role early in their careers.
As Lisa Smith said in her hard-hitting blog in HuffPost – “It took four punches of the snooze button to get me out of bed this morning. I wasn’t tired. Or sick, for that matter. But I was sick and tired.
Sick and tired of the same old routine, minute after minute, day after day, year after year, since 1995, when I made the decision to stay at home to manage our family”. Lisa’s feeling is shared by many women out there I spoke to during the course of the research of my book – Breakthrough. They loved their families and the nest they had so carefully nurtured over the years, but the monotony of doing what they did every day coupled with well-meant advise from their teenagers, parents and friends felt exactly like the surgeon on the table, who if left alone would bring his years of study and training to complete a successful operation without a hitch. But then the fact remains that we do live in a world where business, life and economy continue to be getting into hyper frequency of uncertainty, with every passing year.
There are many stellar stories of both executives and women homemakers who have with all the noise and incidents around them emerged successfully, like the diver from his deep plunge who surfaces inhaling fresh oxygen. So again, what differentiated them as the few, from the many others who continue to hurtle along the life or career path in their carts.
One thing for sure – they paused and reflected! They judiciously took time out every week – one day – for themselves. They found time to slow down their EKD© factor and in that moment chose to select. They selected what they wanted from their lives or career, not told!
So, what’s EKD© factor? That’s a new term I coined during the course of research of my book to describe a complex issue in the simplest way possible. EKD© is the ‘Experiential Knowledge Dump’ in our minds that stops us from accepting the changing environment around us. It leads us to be in a constant state of denial till we almost reach a point of no-return. More later. Allow me to draw your focus on – “pause and reflect”.
I have a proposition to suggest to the world out there today. Why just wait for the end of the week. Why just thank Friday? Let us make Tuesdays our own. Let us adopt Tuesday as the day we will press the pause button at some planned point in the day and THINK!
Let me take the liberty to introduce the concept of Tuesday as “To-your-use-Day” here on. It has been scientifically researched that it’s the day when people tend to be at their peak and accomplish the most. In fact, some firms in the world have implemented “Thinking Days” where they encourage employees to rejuvenate through new learnings and experiences at work. A leading global organization I worked with also had the concept of urging managers and leaders to pick a day or week in the month when employees can exchange hats to develop higher empathy which would lead to lateral thinking and creativity at work. Even if you are in a space where this is not possible, taking out personal hours should not be very demanding as along one can prioritise it.
As we take out time to spend it with the most important person who manages our life-cart, things will change. It has been seen and proven. You are that most important person!
And today August 18, 2020 is a Tuesday.
So, go for it!