Take a moment right now to remember a time you found yourself running around in circles. Perhaps you were packing for a trip and your mind was racing with all the things you need to remember to put in the suitcase. You need to remember to grab your toothbrush, or a belt or a jacket and ask your neighbor to pick up your mail and/or water your plants. Maybe you still need to type up the instructions for your pet that is staying back with a sitter. Or another scenario could be that you have a deadline for a project and its crunch time. As you are tying up the loose ends there are little things to consider. Did everyone add their comments to the document? Did the final data points get included? Were the references added? Are the slides ready? There could be a myriad of situations that can keep us overwhelmed, distracted, moving in too many different directions at one time. I know for myself; I am not thinking clearly or efficiently in those moments and end up making things harder for myself. I find myself running around in circles willy nilly vs. thinking strategically or carefully about how I’m using my energy.
Fortunately, the last couple of weeks have not been as busy. It’s quieter this summer than in years passed. It seems as if people are actually taking time off and enjoying some vacation. Thus, I’ve had more time to work SLOWLY through the week, being more intentional and thoughtful. It’s been a pleasant change of pace and one I’ve appreciated, as I know times like these are fleeting. I tried to soak it in, notice and embrace it. Although it’s been more relaxed for me, it hasn’t necessarily been like that for some of my coworkers.
There have been two separate instances with two of them that stood out to me this last month. I’ll modify them a little to keep it more anonymous.
In one situation, I got an email request from an administrator who had a specific question about a school mental health program. I forwarded her question to someone from that particular program who then subsequently bounced it around to someone else who forwarded it to someone else who eventually sent an email response. Initially, I thought, oh good it eventually got to the right person who can help but imagine my disappointment and surprise when days later that same administrator came back to me saying their question hadn’t been answered. I immediately called them, and we resolved it within 5 minutes. She was extremely grateful for the personalized attention she received, and it took very little time.
In another example, I was going to meet a colleague for an in-person meeting. In trying to decide where we would meet, they suggested we just go to the office which is over an hour away for both of us. In further exploration, neither of us needed to go to the office so I was able to take a few minutes to find a location halfway between our residences so we each only had to drive 25 minutes to a venue in between us. It saved both of us time and money and the location worked well. We plan to meet there again in the future!
In both of these cases, knowing the parties well, I thought, why did these situations get so overly complicated? Upon reflection, I realized that both of my coworkers (friends) are so overwhelmed and stressed with their other tasks that they didn’t have the capacity to think outside the box and just reacted. It was too much to put any brain power to the request. They are just moving so quickly through their day that taking time to SLOW down felt harder than figuring out a more simple/easier solution. I KNOW I have done that so many times myself. And it was only because I had the luxury of a slower schedule that I could problem solve and help out in those ways. However, it wasn’t lost on me that even in those harried times perhaps things would be less chaotic if we force ourselves to not just react but be intentional and thoughtful about how we respond to different requests made of us. Maybe there are opportunities to simplify things. Sometimes automatic pilot can be effective but not necessarily efficient. There is always a lot to do, let’s try not to make it harder than it needs to be.