I have just finished a 982-page, teeny tiny font biography of Winston Spencer Churchill. It took about a month to read at about a chapter a day. Mammoth effort, amusing and informative experience. For example, did you know that when the Free French Army needed a wartime HQ in 1940 they were allocated Trafalgar House in Waterloo Place. Someone had a sense of humour.
Churchill was an exceptional man. Like me (and this is the only comparison I can justify) he was consistently criticised and attacked, and suffered many career setbacks – but always came back. I sympathise. There the comparison ends, because even I, a time management student, can’t match his being a politician, statesman, author, historian, philosopher, painter, lepidopterist, bricklayer (yes, true), public speaker, raconteur (there is a difference), pilot, sailor, combat veteran and reporter. (Actually the list is a lot longer but I’ve given the book back to the library.) He did NOT have a degree and was famed for failing exams. He held every Cabinet office except one. He was once Home Secretary.
He had neither MSWord nor t’Internet while he ran the UK during a World War. And you thought you were busy!
I’ve always felt that ‘busy’ is very much a state of mind. Don’t worry, mine’s been in a state, too. If busy means you truly have more to do than there is a time to do it, fair enough. But if you have time to self-generate process, to volunteer, to carry out directed and non-directed patrol, then no, you aren’t busy. You may be managing your time poorly, but if you have time to do routine stuff then you aren’t using that time for important stuff and so you are not overwhelmed – unless you decide that you are. That’s what I mean by a state of mind. You feel ‘busy’ but what you are actually feeling is the pressure of your mind reminding you, at the most inopportune moments, that you have something else to do that you aren’t doing now.
Your supervisor asks you to do something, and THEN you remember the things you have to do and haven’t done, and the ‘new’ thing feels like it’s competing with the ‘old’ things.
You’re not really busy. Your stuff is in an unmanaged pile in your brain. And as David Allen, author of ‘Getting Things Done’ opines, your mind is a poor place for storing stuff. And that is because it doesn’t have a filing system of any practical format. It’s just a big ol’ drawer, like your kids’ floordrobe. All the stuff is in all the places and pops up when it feels like it should and not when you need it to.
Churchill was a bit lucky. He had an immense capacity for remembering and ‘filing’ material in his head that he could retrieve at the drop of his cigar ash. (And a PA who could help, but that doesn’t detract from his abilities.)
What he also had, I would suggest, was the ability to recognise that he could not do everything at once, and to therefore allocate appropriate focus to one thing at a time. When he painted, he painted. When he planned a speech, he focused on it to the exclusion of everything else. (And you know how good his speeches were.) When he wrote his History of the English Speaking Peoples and his 6-volume history of the War, he focused on that. Then, when appropriate, he’d move on to the next thing and focus on that.
We aren’t all capable of retention of information like some, but I believe we are all capable of focusing on what we are doing now. When we do that, all the clutter that presses on us dissipates and doesn’t stress us. When we organise our stuff, we allocate appropriate attention and time to getting it done.
But no one teaches you that in the police, do they?
I do. HERE. You’re welcome.