I just read an article that reminds me a lot of how I work: If Walt Disney was Running a Web Business. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to context switch less expensively; mental effort; time-wise; and distracted thinking. Working for yourself, running your own companies: after a while even the more experiential learner entrepreneurs, unless they’re driving themselves unconsciously (and many are), realize it’s not about being busy, or how hard you work: it’s what you get done.
As the CEO of a technology company, a typical week includes reviewing marketing, financial, design, and engineering projects, doing architecture on solutions for clients, driving strategic sessions with clients, speaking, working our difficulties between or for personnel, selling to clients, backing up what’s sold, and a lot – more than I’d like – time on the phone. Constant interrupts are the norm, focused time usually means accruing voice and email messages, some of which really earnestly do -need- my attention. The major issues come up one, two, sometimes three a week – problems with projects, technical hurdles that look impossible, proposals that are due that turn out to be a lot more work than planned, people out sick. And when you’re an exec at a small technology company? You guessed right, you end up dropping whatever you’re doing and getting it done.
Doing so, and remaining calm while you’re dealing with the onslaught, is really key. One friend of mine recently admitted to me his ambition to run his rather considerable business empire without having to leave his desk. He’s set up his whole operation so he can wake up in the morning early, drink green tea, and successfully execute billions of dollars worth of business. Another friend of mine finds himself focusing on grace, and the importance of being graceful in your life and work, commenting to me,”and the fact that the mental self will never get grace, never understand it, never be able to catalogue it, does not stop the fact that grace IS, it just IS, it is the nature of life, whether we understand it or not, that everything is in perfect balance. And thats great news.”
I’ve found that having a physical location is a useful training mechanism for hitting a “certain spot” in your consciousness. I find myself unable to sit at my desk while on the phone – I can’t stand it. I walk outside, I go for a walk, I sit somewhere else. I don’t want to use the space I use for work for chatting – because it takes me out of my “cranking” mode, which is what I associate with the big Mac Pro and the 30″ monitor it’s attached to. If I lose that “working” space, I end up a little scattered throughout the day.
I thought that that a lot. And after a while I realized that it’s because I was switching modes, going from “doing” to “relating,” any my analytical brain wanted nothing to do with the guy who does the calls. Becoming conscious of this relationship lead to me realize that I have four different modes (some people call them personalities, but that’s too strong): a sales guy, who likes to help people find solutions to problems and benefit people around me financially; a scientist type, who likes to test things and see how they work; an architect, who likes to create things (business, photoshop, strategies and game plans, same skill), and a therapist/moderator, who likes to smooth things out and help people get back to their result focus. When those areas come into conflict is when I feel distressed or unfocused, so creating a place (mentally or physically) where I can capture the state I need helps me reduce the ‘expense of mode switching’ dramatically.
Being conscious of that, which took some walking around the room, sitting at common places I work and figuring out who was working there, actually has helped me a great deal to make sure I’m in the right mode for the conversation or activity I’m having. I strongly suggest to my friends they take a good hard look at their own working habits, and see how you can unleash yourself a little bit by becoming conscious of their modes and personalities. Obviously, reconciling it with a to do list is essential, but conscious business demands awareness, and these are great techniques.