Earth, Wind & Fire

The 4 Elements

Problems at work often focus on elemental descriptions: I’m completely buried; I’m blown-away; this project is on fire; we’re totally under water. That may be a sign that we enjoy communing with nature, but probably not. When I start hearing these phrases, it’s a signal that people need to stop, even for a minute, and plan.

You say, “But I’m working my plan!” Ok. Is it working as you’d hoped? Did you want the plan to make you frazzled and inefficient and crabby? Was a feeling of persistent panic a benchmark of success? If not, your plan needs some revision.

When I ask clients who are in the maelstrom of busy-ness why they are so harried, they usually say, “It’s temporary.” There is a big event coming-up, a conference, three new projects with the same deadline, etc. This is usually followed by a justification that if they can just make it through this project, everything will be better. I believe them. I know their intention is that as soon as this round of mayhem subsides, they will get a good view on the situation and things will be easier. Unfortunately, the current situation somehow spreads into the next event, the next project, the next billing cycle… and the stress persists.

This is why you must plan. I don’t simply mean plan to have this project finished and net 30%. I mean plan the process, plan the measures of success, have a sense of how you want to feel about your work every day, and have indicators that show you when you are succeeding or when you are steering off-course and back into the pit of despair. A plan helps to shift your perspective on the elements:

Stop and think about your busy-ness and the circumstance burying you or keeping you under water. Does it help you feel good about your work? If it does, carry on. If it doesn’t, try a different kind of access to the elements, breathe some air into your lungs very slowly, and plan how you want to work today. Then hold that focus in your mind and body, smile as you find your groove, and do your good work from a more sustainable perspective.

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