Monday, 18 January 2010

“They intoxicate themselves with work so they don’t see how they really are”.

Aldous Huxley said this and it’s been a topic of curiosity throughout history – people who seem busier than they are or need to be; people who are martyrs to work.

So my advice for 2010: relax, think more, don’t get frenzied and give yourself time and space. Find time to smell the claret (I prefer claret to roses which are the things Ringo Starr asked us to smell.) And we’ve been shown recently how snow has had this peculiar effect of slowing everything down and muffling noise …nature’s way, perhaps, of showing us how to solve problems. Slowly and quietly.

But most big companies busy themselves producing documents or decks of slides so detailed, so turgid and so long they act on one’s head rather as a mallet does. If only Fred Goodwin had been made to read the information pack on ABN Amro there’s a fighting chance he might have said after struggling through the first ten pages “you know what - I can’t be bothered. Let’s go out to lunch instead”. (And by the way going back to my blog on rehabilitation of January 3rd, my observations have borne fruit and the self same knight has picked up a job at RMJM, the 5th biggest architectural business in the world.)

If “busy” is the only mode of existence, we are in trouble because “busy” is treadmill stuff – doing things for appearance’s sake; more style than substance,

Laidback and thoughtful is a lot better. Laidback, thoughtful and effective like Gerry Robinson was, the one time superstar boss of Granada; a man never known to let work spoil his work-life balance.

The best comment I heard recently was from an ex colleague of mine who remarked how struck he was by the fact that so many of these busy people were, in fact, plain lazy; that they rushed around but didn’t really know their stuff. Too lazy to care; too busy to do the basics.

Here’s a story of focus.

They test new Secretaries of State do Civil Servants. The red box test puts them on their mettle. Ken Clarke, then in Health or wherever, got ten red boxes on his first day. He asked for the most important one and said that one would have to do and that would they get their act together in future because less is more.

And then you can spend more time using your brain (what Woody Allen described as his “second favourite organ”) and less time ticking boxes (red ones or otherwise.)

Because, just one really important box will do fine.

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