Helpful Analogies for the Busy

Hello! So you have all been incredibly supportive of my foray into photos and being styled/dressed for the launch of Project Strength. I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you. I plan to launch this business for realsies in February next year, but it all starts now with getting my metaphorical house in order. Which is why I share with you the following story from last week. It has gotten me thinking, and as I sit in my studio writing with unfinished tasks scattered around me (clothes and shoes from this morning’s photoshoot, etc) with a fair bit of the crazy going on for me personally, I remember this story from last week. So I take a deep breath and work out what I can paint around vs what has to be done fully. Here’s the full story…

This hen has stuff to do. Like you and me but from a hens perspective. She has to find food, lay eggs, sort out her chicks, etc but she’s calm, chilled even. Let’s be like her. Getting it done, without literally running between meetings. It’s possible. Right? 

Last week I was working with a National HR team for one of the Big 4 Consulting Firms and we were talking about the busy-ness that is living and working/leading a team these days. When the participants were asked about how they know when they are ‘out of balance’ one reply has stayed with me. This particular leader, Jane, shared that she has two metaphors for knowing where she is on her own map. The first is the Chicken and the second is the Drier. She described herself as being so busy with the juggle that is corporate life, that she literally runs between meetings some days. Whilst she is a very capable senior leader, she acknowledges the message this sends to her team, some of whom are in their formative years work-wise. For her, when she has the thought or idea that she ‘better run’ or, when she actually starts running, she remembers that she is behaving frenetically, aka like a chicken with its head cut off. Once she has identified that her busy-ness has tipped into crazy-ness (her words!) she applies this second analogy, the Drier. 

“Whenever she finds herself racing, she asks herself this simple question: ‘Which of these activities can be painted around’.

Jane described a coaching session she had with an external coach, who asked her how she would paint her house in a day. Being a great storyteller, Jane launched into a spiel back to the coach about the need for taping, priming, laying down drop cloths and during this in-depth one-way discussion, she mentioned taking the drier off the wall to paint behind it. The coach asked her why she wouldn’t paint around the drier. After all, no one would be able to tell and in this fictitious coaching example, Jane only had a day to paint her house. So why take the drier off the wall to paint behind it, when she could be doing all the other, more visible work required to get the house painted by the deadline? Jane was speechless by this idea, something she joked about that doesn’t happen very often. In her world, she needed to complete each task fully, even when the extra details weren’t required. Talk about a light-bulb moment for Jane.

So now Jane pairs the two analogies together. Whenever she finds herself racing, she asks herself this simple question: “Which of these activities can be painted around”. Or, which tasks can I get done more efficiently if I just do what is required on the surface level, instead of going to more trouble than I need too? There are a few caveats of course. Jane doesn’t take short cuts which might trip her up later, and she is a responsible adult, so nothing and no one is harmed by short-circuiting some of her processes.

As with all shared wisdom, this has left an imprint on me, and now it’s time to ask you the same question I have been toying with since last week:

In your life, what is your ‘chicken’ and what do you do to ‘paint around the drier’?

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