It’s 8:30 pm. Yoga is not happening. Time to answer the remaining
40 emails in your inbox. If you’re lucky, you might even finish that
report that’s due on Wednesday.
However, a text arrives from your friend. The jarring vibration
startled you. Alternatively, perhaps it was the farmhouse cow ring
tone. Regardless, your attention is diverted from the work emails
you were supposed to answer – to catch up from overburdened
feelings you possessed during the workday – to a face plant emoji
and a link. You click it. You have been whisked away to a YouTube
video. It turns out there’s a cat in Nova Scotia that can swim. It’s
funny, and 15 minutes long.
At the end of the video, you’re laughing to yourself and feel-ing
good. It reminds you of a Friends episode, the one with the
“Smelly Cat” song. That Netflix subscription sure comes in
handy. The laptop is no longer a work device. It has become a
sitcom distribution channel. Within seconds you’re watching
(again) the “Smelly Cat” episode. Ah, the cortisol has vanished,
replaced by a trickle of dopamine. It’s 10:00 p.m. Time for bed.
“I’ll find an hour or two on Tuesday to answer those emails and
finish that report,” you murmur to yourself.
Tuesday rolls around and you might as well have mistaken it for
Monday. History repeats itself. You’re back to being overly busy,
frenetic and discombobulated.
Far-fetched as the scenario above sounds, it is becoming the
norm for far too many HR professionals. The consequences are
beginning to pile up, too.
Not only are we becoming more stressed and potentially disen-gaged
at work, the quality of our work itself suffers. A return to
balance is required. HR professionals ought to shift their always
busy repertoire for one that equally balances reflection with action.
When reflection wanes – or becomes non-existent – and you
instead operate in an execution-only environment, the creative and
critical thinking that is needed within HR to support employees
and the organization wanes.
There are three critical ways in which to rebalance reflection
BLOCK TIME OFF IN YOUR CALENDAR
Every day, each of us is equipped with 1,440 minutes. We all
possess 168 hours a week and 8,736 hours a year to use to our
advantage. If we do not earmark a significant portion of time
to reflect – by blocking time out in our calendars – we have lit-tle
chance of coming up with ideas or making solid decisions to
support the employees we serve. Setting aside time to reflect will
allow HR professionals not only to get organized, but to ponder,
to dream and to ideate.
The most straightforward suggestion is to carve out one hour
a day that is yours. Call it “me time” if you have to. Two hours
would be ideal. It may have to move around based on your sched-ule
and deliverables, but a little “dreaming” will go a long way to
unleashing those pent-up ideas of yours, leading to much better
Blocking off the first 30 minutes of the day, as well as the final
30 minutes allows the time to connect the dots of every ball being
juggled. It also gives the breathing space to employ creative and
START SAYING “NO” TO MEETINGS
HR professionals need to stop over-programming their every min-ute
with meetings. Creative and critical thinking requires space
and time. When you accept every single request for a meeting, you
are cutting into your overall thinking time. Help your mind to
wander by just saying “no” to the incessant and obtrusive number
of meetings that come your way. At a minimum, be more selective
in saying “yes.”
Devise a system that sees you only attending “X” number of
meetings a week. If you are responsible for setting and leading
meetings, perhaps ask yourself if a 60-minute meeting might be
accomplished in 45- or 30-minutes instead. Does the frequency
have to be weekly (if it’s a review meeting) or could the cadence
stretch to bi-weekly or even monthly?
Meetings are the enemy of your time and a lack of time is the
enemy of good thinking.
PREVENT TECHNOLOGY TIME THIEVING
There is a hidden irony to the technology we use on a daily basis.
It’s supposed to make our lives more comfortable, but in fact, it is
arguably the biggest culprit of time thieving. How much time are
you spending distracted by technology? Is this distractedness or
hidden stress causing you to be overly busy and less focused on the
opportunity of becoming a better thinker?
In one study, researchers Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W.
Dunn discovered when people were assigned to limit the num-ber
of times they checked their email they ended up experiencing
lower overall day-to-day stress, higher well-being and better self-perceived
productivity. In another study conducted by William
Becker, however, the always on and available through technology
work culture has negative consequences for employees. “Flexible
work boundaries often turn into ‘work without boundaries,’ com-promising
an employee’s and their family’s health and well-being,”
Despite the fact much of an HR professional’s life is spent using
technology, it would be wise for your overall thinking to step away
from it on occasion. Go for walks, hikes or take a technology-free
brain break during the day. When you spend all of your time on
technology – sucked into the endless vortex of social media – it
ultimately hampers the quality of your thinking. n
Dan Pontefract is the author of OPEN to THINK: Slow Down,
Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions.
HELP YOUR MIND TO WANDER BY JUST SAYING “NO” TO THE INCESSANT
AND OBTRUSIVE NUMBER OF MEETINGS THAT COME YOUR WAY.
48 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL