As I work with the NHS I am increasingly convinced that it is not money that is the critical scarce resource - it is time. The time to think differently about the future, the time to experiment with doing things differently, the time simply to stop and think. Diaries full for months ahead. Unable to get people together for more than a short period thus missing the opportunity for high value conversations. And when people do get together finding that you are repeatedly covering old ground (two steps forward and one step back).
And yet my sympathy is getting stretched. Let me repeat something I said in the previous blog in this series. You need to accept something fundamental - this is your problem, not a Somebody Else's Problem (SEP). You are born and then you die. And in-between those two events the seconds, minutes, days, months are yours, nobody else's. You have control, you may choose to give some of that time to family, rent some of it out to employers. But it is your own time and you are the one with the choices about how to use it.
Let me ask you some questions - think about them, jot down both the questions and the answers on a white board or a piece of A3 paper and keep it somewhere you can look at it and remind yourself why you are doing this.
- what is the physical and psychological cost to you as a person of not being in control of your own time?
- What is the cost to those around you whether family or work colleagues of not being in control of your own time?
- What is the cost to your organisation of you not being able to realise your full potential at work because you are not in control of your own time?
There is good news and bad news.
The good news first. You are not alone and there are many others out there who have been in the same place and have regained control. There are others who are in the same place and like you want to find their way out and would find it easier to do it with others - Hamsters Anonymous if you like. And there are lots of simple things you can do which will make a difference not only to you but also to those around you. So:
Step 1: Tell your colleagues, team, peers or friends that you intend to regain control - that they can join you, help you, provide feedback or just watch with interest.
Acknowledging you have a problem and sharing it with others is an important first step. It improves the chances of you doing something about it and it is a lot more fun and less lonely doing it with others. It also prepares those around you to expect some changes from your normal patterns of behaviour and work-style.
And now the bad news. You have to make time to do this. You have to get off your hamster wheel and find the time to make yourself your own improvement project. The moment you do that and do it regularly then you are on your way off the wheel.
Step 2: Take control of your diary and put in an hour a week for your personal improvement project. It will be difficult to find the space to start with but get it in there.
Not in your spare time, not in the car (please concentrate on driving). And it is not for you to catch up on emails, return calls or catch up on reading. It is for your space for you to plan each step in your journey. To review what you have done differently and to decide what you are going to try differently next week - your personal PDSA cycle.
And a handy tip - give your personal improvement project a name so it stands out in your booked time. Try this link for something different
Project Angry Moose or Project Aberrant Tuba anyone?
Progress at a glance
In the next post we are going to talk briefly about measurement - knowing how you are doing. But you can start with one now. Draw up a simple table - 4 columns and 10 rows. One cell per week. Stick it on a wall where you or anyone else can see it. If you managed to keep that hour in your diary for your project then put in a large green tick (or if you moved it to elsewhere in the week but still used it). If you did not then put in a red cross. How many weeks since your last red cross?