Ok first things first, I’ll be honest the title might actually be a bit misleading, but panic in south west London doesn’t have quite the same ring to it does it? So, what’s the panic? What could possibly have moved me enough to want to spend the time writing a blog post all about it?
Actually, it’s quite simple. A couple of days ago I found myself working down in our fair capital. Already a novel experience for a northern boy but that’s hardly the point. Despite working fastidiously on my travel plans and organising my day to within an inch of its life, I found myself coming apart at the seams as I tried to make it home in time for a family evening. Essentially all that had happened was this:
- Train cancelled
- Issues getting public transport to another station
- Failure to have noticed I’d booked a restricted train ticket
Upon reading this I am sure you will join in me in recognising that there’s not really anything there to panic about. In fairness it wasn’t the travel issues that caused the panic, it was letting people down at the other end that was contributing to a fair level of frustration. Why was this happening? Why did this happen to me? Why did it have to be today of all days? Why hadn’t I taken notice of the type of ticket that I was booking? Why couldn’t I just figure something out? On the plus side my lean six sigma training was working well and I was at least focused enough to ask my self the 5 whys!
Taking a moment to gather my thoughts I found a cab, changed the ticket for a not inconsiderable fee and made it home in time. Whilst sat on the train, actually stood and behaving more like a vacuum-packed food product given the overcrowding, I reflected back on what had been a very stressful…..20 minutes! Really?! Was that it? In its entirety from going wrong to finding myself back on the way home a whole 20 minutes had passed. During my muddled thought processes though it felt like more than a couple of hours had gone by. Time always seems to move so slowly when things aren’t necessarily going the right way for you don’t they?
It was this thought that inspired this latest ramble. I have been faced with train delays and cancellations before. I’ve been stuck in other countries waiting for another flight after my own had been cancelled and have done my fair share of travelling at strange hours after various issues only to turn up to work the next day after very little sleep. The reality here is that I can deal with issues like this, so why did I suffer what can only be described as a pathetic brain fart.
My travel plans are always made well in advance so that I know where I am heading and what times I need to work to. In this instance the added pressure was getting home on time for a family event. On this occasion, I hadn’t adapted my approach to suit the change in circumstances. Interesting, one small omission in the way I approached the work and suddenly the potential was there for me to fail a personal objective. There was no one else to blame for this. There was only myself and my failure to notice the change and take action.
So, what can be learned from this? If we look at it from a working perspective, there are so many times where we start to operate on autopilot. There are tasks that you will complete on a daily basis that you have become so used to doing that you really don’t need to think about them anymore. If this is the case, are you sure that you are delivering the best possible results that you can be? Are you certain that the work in question still adds value and are you aware of the impact your working habits are having on other people?
The derailment of my own thinking processes in this travel example came from not realising that my regular course of action had flaws that could lead to bigger issues for me in the longer term. How many times do you continue with actions that might ultimately cause you issues further down the line?
We often discuss development in terms of formal training programmes, elearning events or specific 121 coaching but this does not need to be the case. If you take a step back and just review your daily actions you might find that there are changes you can make yourself that will help you become more productive, more able to adapt to change and deliver greater levels of performance in your activities.
Waiting for a panic to set in will indeed focus the mind but it will drive anxiety and a fear of failure too. Why would you want to face that? My advice here then is simple:
- What regular activities do you complete on autopilot?
- What small change can you make that over time will lead to increased levels of performance?
- How can you generate more flexibility in your approach to deal with the unexpected?
As for me what learning have I taken away from these 3 questions? Well I am sat writing this on a train to London, there’s irony for you. However, this time I have a flexible ticket in my pocket, I have advised family members I might be home late for dinner and I’ve organised my meeting times with clients more effectively.
Now if only I hadn’t forgotten my wallet….