Friday, 26 February 2016

Busy busy busy - what does this even mean?

It seems that whenever you ask anyone how their work is these days you get the same response; 'it's busy'.  We've kind of taken the word busy and used it to describe an almost constant state of work.  I had someone in my team say they were too busy for planning at one point, which does make me scratch my head. How can you be too busy to take stock and plan your day? Surely that in itself means, as it did in this case, that the person risks wasting time working on stuff that's been overtaken by events? The problem isn't the fact that we're busy as such - it's more that we're so petrified of being classed as lazy or inactive that we feel there's a certain expectation that busy is the right state to be in.  Let's straighten this one out and dig a bit deeper.

Most people might class me as busy. I work a lot, hold down a full-time job with leadership and management responsibilities, run a company, have a wife and kids, got a dog that needs walking, always got projects on and need to decorate the house etc etc.  I don't consider any of this to be a negative fact. I very rarely miss lunch (food in general is high on my priority list), I don't work ridiculously long hours in the traditional sense, I've been known to waste time looking at crap on the internet and I'm not immune to a bit of 'Facebooking' either.  I've got a team of ten here and I like to think that on pretty much any day one of them can bring issues to me and I've got capacity to help them with that or at least talk through the options.

I'm not scared either to have a team meeting and let the team know I have capacity this week if they need any help with what they're working on.  In fact I'd go further and say that this is not a luxury for leadership, it's a necessity. Being too busy to make time for people that work for you sends out lots of messages about what's the most important part of your job - surely it should be them?

Okay okay, so what if you're not in a management position? What if you're a worker bee, diligently pushing through an ever-expanding over-crowded inbox? Firstly it's great to be able to have an understanding of what you can and can't achieve. If the amount of work you can do in your allotted hours is less than the tasks you have then you can just work away blindly or you can take some action.  You can reflect on your own practice and see if there's ways to do things more efficiently, you can ask for help, you can prioritise and most importantly you must communicate the struggles.

The real problem with busy though is when it's entirely self-induced and not linked to outputs.  How many people are busy but don't seem to actually be doing anything? I 'waste' time during my day.  I don't take formal breaks as such, but if I want to look at Fb or read the news that's what I do. I take time to drink a cuppa or walk over and see others some times.  Some times I listen to music and sometimes I blog, answer personal emails and even watch the odd video.  I think this is fine and here's why.  When I'm at home, I check my work emails and have a work phone.  If someone calls me when I'm busy with my other stuff, I speak to them if I can, I might take some action or make notes to follow up depending on what I have on.  Work has leaked into home life, so it's only fair to some extent that home life leaks into work. In fact work and home are just a part of my life and in order to do the best at that I need to be myself.

One thing's for sure is that you need to spend some time during the day doing what gives you pleasure - be that reading a newspaper or blogging or reading last night's results. Busy is not an excuse for missing out on the human interactions though, these are the fun parts too and the bits that we need.  If your calendar is over flowing with 'crap' then you need to find a way to free yourself from it, look at how you spend your time and how effective you are.

So yes, I'm busy if you like, but not too busy, never too busy to talk with people and enjoy my work life just like my home life :)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The awesome power of words and how to use them for good

One of my pet hates is abbreviations.  This coming from a man who spent a dozen years in the military, but there's a fair reason why I'm anti the use of abbreviations in general, they're usage perpetuates a divide; you either know what they mean and can use them or you don't.  If you get a briefing that the NSA doesn't know about the TEC plans to RTB in DQT that's fine if you know what all the abbreviations stand for, but not if you don't know them all, or worse if you think you know them but you get it wrong.  Thing is even if you do know what the words mean do the abbreviations really help? It's a bit like using a long word because it sounds impressive even if it's usage isn't really 100% correct.

That's hate number two in language.  Our use of super-clever long words to display our intellect and again seek to divide the smart people from the masses.  If I have to go look up the words you use to me then surely some of the very impact you may have been hoping for has been lost - unless of course the impact was to let me know what an extensive vocabulary you have.  If you think something is too long there's no shame in saying that, you could say that it's of protracted duration but what do you add besides protracting the duration?  I'm a firm believer that a smaller vocabulary used to express what you believe in trumps an extended vocabulary used to show how big and clever you are - the focus should be on your argument and your reasoning not how to exclude others from it.  Don't get me wrong sometimes the best word is a long one, some words give a greater impact and can carry the weight of five shorter words, but the decision should be made with consideration for who your potential audience is too.  I've reported to some pretty important folks at time, but I've never felt the burning need to try to vamp up my language to match their expectations.  Am I wrong? Do they treat me with disdain because of my lack of a highly extended vocabulary?  I doubt it, but I can live with it if they do, at least they know what I mean.

Pet hate three comes in the form of those oh so awesome sounding buzz words and phrases.  Micro-learning, Personal Learning Network, Knowledge Management, Social
Anything, Micro-Anything, Learners, Learning Anything, Anything Learning.  Whilst I apologise for using swear words on Twitter recently I stand by my criticism of 'Wanky Words' that get so regularly used particularly in the learning area.  I'm usually upset enough at the definition 'learners' implying that they're a special sub-breed of human, but going as far as further defining just drives me nuts.  We actually need to stop grabbing trending words and bandying them around as if they convey the power behind them to change the world.  All they do is alienate again or add a sense of science where it doesn't belong.  If something sounds super technical and cool, there's a concept that we can sell it easier, when the reality is we end up shovelling the same stuff and perpetuating rubbish science.

The biggest thing though is that words are here to help us to explain things to others and we need that at the heart of our communication.  Words as weapons? No, not unless your intention is to hurt someone.  The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, but the power is not in the alienation or the attack of the others, but in the ways we can connect, interact and share.

My final point comes from a few Twitter chats I've seen bouncing around.  What's your inspiring word for the year?  You can imagine the buzz words that fly given that sort of challenge.  How about instead of picking a word for the year, you aim for using your words only to help others - the individual words and phrases will take care of themselves if you have that type of intention.

Love to hear your opinion... am I off? Are words best served in a cleverly constructed way to ensure the picture is accurate? Or what's your word for the year? Happy to take it further or shut up if need be!