People, Culture and Inclusion

The Productivity of Letting Go.


The Productivity of Letting Go.

As I read yet another list of amazing things to do in lockdown, from PE with Joe Wicks to micro-volunteering, I ask myself for the zillionth time whether I feel productive.  I might be sitting at my laptop for hours on end, (and in truth I am starting to fall a little out of love with constant video calls), but is any of what I’m doing actually productive?

The constant expectation to use all this extra time in lockdown to do so many extraordinary things is frankly exhausting. And, for all those people racing round trying to keep young kids amused, and conjuring up meals and at-home adventures, it’s hard to feel that there actually is any extra time. (You’re only uninterrupted five minutes might be when you’re in the bathroom but it’s definitely not advisable to video call from there – we’ve all heard the Zoom horror stories….).

So I am left wondering where my actual work life fits into all this and what can really make a difference in managing my own performance, let alone that of my team. I look around at my scraps of paper and endless lists and realise my main navigation tool for each day is the note stuck above my laptop which says: What have you chosen to let go of today? It is that smallest of nudges to remind me to think about what’s the most important thing that I need to be focusing on right now. And to remember what my overall purpose is in the role that I do. That hasn’t changed, even if everything around me has.

I grasp that thread of normality and anticipate the small glow of achievement of getting the more immediate stuff off my desk.  And then, small victories gained, (yes, uploading Desk Yoga Poses to the team chat does count), I take my coffee into the garden for a while. Ignoring the lure of technology, I go old school, with a notebook in hand. I scribble down some thoughts about longer term projects and feel that small bubble of excitement that comes from thinking about something new, something future-focused. It reminds me that organisational life continues to flourish even in these changed circumstances, and how it is bringing opportunities to do things differently.

I also realise that the micro-journey to my back garden brought a much needed change of pace.  That small shift of scene gave me the change of perspective I needed for my wellbeing and for dialling down the always-on culture that has started to seep unbidden into my life. 

I check in with my team and realise that most of them are managing that balance far better and I resolve to learn from them.  In return, I realise I can help them to stay focussed on what our purpose is as a team, both now and looking ahead. And to know that feeling productive means prioritising staying safe and well, unchaining ourselves from our laptops, and focusing on what truly matters. So: What are you letting go of today?

If you’re interested in how you can manage performance remotely, both for yourself and for and for your teams, we have some virtual workshops coming up which may be of interest:

Managing My Own Performance in Adversity – Friday 15th May 2020 (09.30-11:00)

Managing Performance Remotely – Wednesday 20th May 2020 (14:00-15:30)

Having the Difficult Performance Conversation – for managers managing performance remotely. Sessions on Thursday 21st May 2020 (14:00-15:30) and Tuesday 16th June 2020 (10:00-11:30)

Amanda Maclean, Head of Organisational and People Development

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2 comments on “The Productivity of Letting Go

  1. It’s tempting to compare yourself with colleagues who seem more productive, and I must admit I do it all the time. But I’m not convinced that anyone is “managing that balance” as well as they want to. The universal recognition that we can’t have business as usual during lockdown is unfortunately accompanied by many additional tasks such as moving teaching online, varying assessments, supporting students affected by these new circumstances, and generally thinking about solutions – as well as adjusting ourselves to working from home and looking after families.
    Setting priorities and letting go can help in some cases, but we’re also operating under particularly difficult circumstances in a sector that already has overtime work practically built in.

    1. Thanks Dennis, I think many will recognise the reality you’ve shared with us, – so many adjustments and at turbo speed! I’m greatly encouraged by how colleagues have risen to the challenge but recognise it’s been at a significant personal cost. And it’s come on top of what has already been a challenging year for many. Let’s hope that we can establish a ‘new normal’ when we emerge from this, one that has wellbeing at its core and which recognises that sometimes to do more, we first have to do less…

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