Stop Spinning Your Wheels

 
 

Are you tired of spinning your wheels? Working hard to get ahead, only to find yourself in the same place yet again?

Progress is the mother of all motivators.  According to research, when you feel you're moving forward in your job, you feel and perform at your best. Conversely, those times when you spin your wheels drain your drive and throw a wrench in your attitude.

On Tuesday, I was with a group of Senior Executives in the finance industry.  They all 'fessed up to the fact that their work/life balance was a joke.  There was no balance.  Their lives outside of work were suffering, and they teetered on the edge of burnout. One exec said,

I should have bought stock in Starbucks. If it wasn't for coffee, I don't know how we'd get anything done around here.  We're expected to be on 24/7.  Vacation?  That's code for ‘take your laptop and work remotely while your family goes off on vacation’.

When asked, "Why haven't you made changes?", the common refrain was, "Everything I'm doing is important.  Nothing can slide.  I'm just doing what it takes to get by around here."

This was a group of the senior most people in the company.  The ones who set policy and direction.   If they couldn't make changes to find balance, who could?

If you want to make a change, you have to start with self-awareness: you can't change what you don't notice.  This is easy to do in theory.  Hard to do in practice.It takes courage to look in the mirror and see what's really staring back at you: warts and all. But courage isn't the only thing keeping you from looking in the mirror.

It also takes time.  Time to stop. Stand still.  Pay attention.  Notice.  Reflect.  Connect. It means taking time out to stop doing. That's hard to do.

It means giving up the rush of the perpetual motion of busyness.  It means withdrawing from the buzz of running on adrenaline.  In the short term, adrenaline seems great.  It gives you a boost of energy when you need it so you can power through the next thing on your list.

The downside? For starters, it's toxic. Adrenal stress also keeps you from thinking reflectively and intentionally.  Which means that you resort to reactive and impulsive thinking.

You perpetuate the habitual behaviors that got you stuck in the first place:

  • Skimping on sleep to get more done.

  • Going for the fast food instead of the nutritious food.

  • Grabbing yet another cup of caffeine.

  • Being hyper-responsive to the client's needs and hypo-responsive to your family's needs.

  • Getting bent out of shape by the slightest annoyances.

...just to name a few.Want to make a change that lasts?  Start with tracking what is:

  • Start a time/activity log. (How much of your time is spent in unproductive meetings?)

  • Keep a journal of how you feel throughout the day. (How often do you find yourself anxious?)

  • Notice which people energize you and which ones drain you.

  • Track your intake of caffeine, sugar, and sleep.

Yes, it takes more time upfront to stop and notice what is. But if you're spinning your wheels, where's your time going to anyway?

What techniques do you use to gain awareness and track behaviors?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.