Imagine it’s a freezing cold, wet day. You get back to your house and realise you’ve lost your keys. After a bit of cursing and stomping around, you call a locksmith, who takes two minutes to open the door and charges you £120.
Would your reaction be: ‘£120 for two minutes’ work? That’s outrageous!’?
If it took him twenty minutes, would that seem like better value?
Clearly, you’re better off spending two minutes rather than twenty standing in the cold rain, but we often place a higher value on the effort that went into something than on the end result, so if it takes longer, it seems like a more reasonable price. In fact, we’re paying for incompetence.
It’s also how we justify our value to ourselves: a term that, in psychology, is called ‘self-signalling’. If a trader comes into work and sees that the way that the markets are going, the best thing for him to do all day is relax and read the paper, he might end up feeling pretty bad about himself. What has he achieved with his day?
As humans, we’re always trying to convince each other that it’s worth having us around. When we were hunter-gatherers, if you failed to do that and were ejected from the tribe, you’d probably die. That explains why we’re all so afraid of rejection.
It used to be that your tribe, or company, would look after you for life. Now that many of us have less job security, our need to justify our existence has intensified, which might explain why everyone’s so desperate to demonstrate how busy and, therefore, necessary they are.
Status used to be demonstrated by your car, house or super-yacht, and by your results or achievements, but increasingly it’s about showing people what we’ve been doing, particularly through email and social media.
This results in:
1) Burn out, because people don’t allow themselves to rest and recuperate.
2) Damaged relationships, because people spend less time with their families and friends, and when they do they’re more stressed and less present.
3) Poorer work performance. If you don’t rest you become tired, which affects your concentration, decision-making, creativity and energy levels. You’re also more likely to be unpleasant to your colleagues.
I suggested in last week’s post that one way to feel less busy was to pay more attention to the present moment, rather than multi-tasking.
Another thing that helps you to feel like you’ve got more time, to recuperate and be less reactive, is ten minutes of meditation in the morning.
It might seem strange that giving yourself another thing to do in the day can make you feel that you’ve got less to do. It might also seem counter-intuitive that a good strategy when you feel you’ve got too much to do is to do nothing for ten minutes.
But as one of my clients put it, after he’s meditated, 99% of the things he thought he had to do, he realises he doesn’t, and the most important thing on his to-do list comes to the front of his mind.
So if for you, like most people I know, life feels too busy at the moment, create ten minutes in your routine, before breakfast, to listen to this meditation recording. If you can’t make time for it then, you could do it on the tube instead.
You’ll find that this is a much more effective strategy for getting people to value you than showing them how busy you are. They will appreciate you for being calmer, kinder and a better listener.
What have you got to lose? Ten minutes of email time?
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