1. Clarity is the product of confusion. You don't understand what really matters until you've been distracted by the things that don't. You don't...
There’s no way of knowing what’s coming next in your life - after the last few years, nothing would be a surprise!
But there are plenty of things you can take control of.
Here’s ten. You can pick two.
10 things TO take charge of
- Your buffer
- Your attitude
- Your intention
- Your loose ends
- Your time
- Your tolerance
- Your technology
- Your team
- Your home
- Your health
ONE - YOUR BUFFER
Anything can turn to shit, at any time.
Minor things - sick kids, traffic jams, car repairs.
Major things - PR nightmares, natural disasters, pandemics.
It doesn’t matter how well you plan, or how much you prepare, something’s going to throw you off course. When you’re running too close to the edge - financially, emotionally, physically or logistically - even minor things can be a nightmare. You need a buffer.
In the last little while, your buffer might have taken a hit. Funds are down. Energy is low. Pressure is up.
You might have used all of it up, and you’re already in the red.
But you don’t have to run dry. Make the choice now, figure out where your deficits are, and rebuild some space and margin in your life. An extra month’s expenses. A few hours a week of nothing time. An extra hour’s sleep each night.
Odds are, you’re going to need it
TWO - YOUR ATTITUDE
This year, I encountered a Nietzsche phrase that I adore: amor fati.
A Latin term, it loosely translates to ‘a love of one’s fate.’ Brilliance. Nothing is inherently positive or negative. It just… is. Whether we like it or not, there’s a lot in our lives we can’t control.
When I work with leaders who are deep in the shit, I often ask them to try writing five or ten different headlines or interpretations of what’s just happened. We write a spread, all the way from doomsday proclamations, to nauseatingly positive spins. Around the third or fourth headline, the pin usually drops - the story is up to you. You can’t control what’s happened, but you can choose how to think about it. You can hate it, you can handle it or you can love it.
So why would you choose to do anything but love it?
THREE - YOUR INTENTION
The last year is a blip on the radar of your life.
You’re playing a long game, and people who are serious about their long game all have one thing in common: a clear intention.
They might not know what’s coming, or how they’re going to make their intention a reality, but they know what they’re aiming for.
They hold it lightly, but they take it seriously. These are the same people who are surprised when their dreams start to come to fruition, because they had so many roadbumps along the way. It’s not a surprise, it’s just how it works.
Strong intentions, held lightly, act as a guide and filter for your decisions. They open up possibilities you wouldn’t see otherwise, and open your eyes to options others might miss.
Know yourself, and know what you’re aiming for.
FOUR - YOUR LOOSE ENDS
The stuff we commit to, but don’t get done, doesn’t go away. It festers in your consciousness and weighs you down, making it hard to be great at the stuff you are doing.
Worse, we don’t even know what half of it is. We know it’s there, but we’re too afraid to write it down and make a plan, because we know it will be overwhelming.
If just reading that paragraph makes you uneasy, this is the thing you need to take charge of - it’s time to tackle that backlog. You can’t work with what you can’t see, so make it visible.
Make the list, make a plan, and start checking it off. Set a day aside over the break and kill it. Make the calls, book and order things, organise a tradesperson, hire that person, fire that other one, drop that broken thing in for repair. Once you get a roll on, it’s astonishing how quickly it all goes away.
FIVE - YOUR TIME
When I do strategy work, teams often tell me “this won’t need any extra budget, just time” or “I don’t think we need to take anything away to make room for this.” This is usually the point at which I start banging my head against the wall.
Where do you think you’re getting extra time from? Can you bend the space time continuum? No. No you can’t.
You’ve got 24 hours in a day. 168 hours in a week. How do you want to spend them? What’s your ideal split, between work, family, friends and personal time? How much time should go on exercise? How much should go on your most important projects? It’s up to you.
Kick off 2021 with some clarity about your spread, and organise your life to suit.
SIX - YOUR TOLERANCE
I’ve had kids for most of my life, and the one myth that I had to bust quickly was my vision of the calm, patient, Earth Mother I thought I would be. I thought the patience came with the kid, and I’m not sure whether mine had missing accessories, but… it didn’t. I’ve had to work at it.
Here’s what I do know: trying to change everyone around you is an exhausting and unwinnable battle. Your kids are always going to act up. There’s always going to be someone at work who makes your life hard. You’re always going to have to interact with frustration, distraction and general fuckery - so get better at it.
Meditate. Get therapy. Exercise. Write your frustration down. Learn to take deep breaths. Cancel your stress. Working on your own tolerance is a far more winnable battle.
SEVEN - YOUR TECHNOLOGY
Your technology matters. If you’ve suffered through this year with an OK camera, a failing laptop, a shitty webcam, or a bunch of ‘does the job, sort of, with a workaround’ platforms, it’s time to sort it out.
Work out your ideal tech stack, buy the best you can afford, get rid of the rest and spend some of your downtime tinkering with it this holidays.
Technology has never been more intuitive and user-friendly, and there has never been more free guidance out there about how to use it well. Don’t suffer the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that comes from using crap gear.
EIGHT - YOUR TEAM
I’m genuinely baffled at some of the behaviour I’ve seen around team management this year. There’s been a full spectrum.. Panic redundancies followed by attempted rehires. Total isolation and freedom without accountability. Absolute micro-management and lack of trust. Attempted restructures. Refusal to hire. No professional development.
It’s time to get it together. You might not know who, and you might not even know how, but it’s important to be clear about the capabilities you need around you.
At home, work out the support you need and ask for it.
At work, review your team for gaps and issues, and tackle them.
In your personal life, think about who needs to be on your personal board of directors, and recruit. Nothing great is achieved alone, so stop limiting yourself.
NINE - YOUR HOME
Many of us have never spent this much time at home, and still more of us were surprised at how much we enjoyed it.
Your home has been your sanctuary from the world - so make it a place you love to be.
Buy great sheets - that’s what half of the hotel bill is anyway. Get into the garden. Sort out your maintenance. Light a scented candle. Clean out your garage. Water your houseplants. Cultivate love, respect and care for your safe place, and enjoy coming back to it everyday.
...You don’t know when you’ll be trapped there for weeks again.
TEN - YOUR HEALTH
This is last on the list, but that’s not indicative of it’s importance. Nothing, nothing, is more important than your health.
When it comes down to it, we’ll shut the whole country down if we have to, when our health is at risk. So why do we keep playing games with it? Why are we so willing to trade off our health for all the crap that we're starting to realise doesn’t matter anyway?
Most of us will happily hand over thousands to fix our car, or maintain our home, but wince at the cost of a trainer, surgery or dentist bill. Stop it.
This is the perfect time for an inventory on the state of your mental, emotional and physical health. Book in a few months of therapy. Make daily exercise a priority. Change what you put in your mouth. Get that mole checked. Go to the dentist. Commit to a sleep schedule.
Invest in your own wellbeing - when it comes down to it, it’s all you’ve really got.