This seems to me to be one of the most stressful ends-of-the-year in recent times. Everyone I talk to says the same thing: people are exhausted, the congestion is worse, the stress levels are higher, the traffic is more intense, the crowds are edgier, and the tendency towards folly is greater. And it just doesn't feel as Christmassy.

Why this is the case, I don’t know. People in government say it’s because of budget cuts. Maybe being wired into the rest of the world 24x7 via our smart phones brings with it a cost as our attention is constantly diverted. Perhaps things are becoming intrinsically more numerous and complex. Maybe it’s just a bad year.

Whatever the cause, here are three thoughts to help you get your bearings in this rather inhospitable environment…

1. The pain of focus is better than the pain of trying to do everything
In an organisational context, high performance is less about giving a virtuoso performance than about building excellence into the everyday.

Warren Buffett said “I don’t try to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”

This means having the focus to identify where you can have the greatest impact and then deploying accordingly. Effectiveness is the thing to aim for, rather than an enhanced ability to multi-task.

The stress and pain of choosing what to say No to is far, far less than the stress and pain of frantically running around trying to do everything…

2. Share the load (and the spirit…)
The senior management upshot of point 1 above is that it’s necessary to build a team or network rather than taking it all on yourself. As Peter Drucker pointedly expressed it: Are you the leader of a team, or a star with helpers?

In a similar vein, Nolan Bushnell – the man who started Atari and was Steve Jobs’ first boss – observed that being the smartest person in the room is really not as important as discovering a smarter person, and then hiring them.

The task then is to generate a clear vision and goals, and weld those smart individuals’ efforts into joint performance.

Again, while that is far from straightforward, it’s less challenging than trying to take it all on as one individual. The hardest part is relinquishing the ego investment associated with getting the credit from doing it all ourselves. (Pride can be exhausting). And in one of those peculiar but common ironies, there’s far greater ego return in orchestrating the impact created by having a bunch of smart people joining forces for a common end, than in the kudos of have the limelight all to ourselves.

3. Opt for a lot of short breaks
While many folk will be having time off during the Christmas and New Year holidays, one of the most useful things I’ve learnt about managing time and high workload pressures is that rather than having one or two a large holidays, it’s better to build in a lot of short breaks throughout the working day and week.

Dale Carnegie makes the point that the US Army found its men could march better and hold up longer, by putting down their packs and resting for 10 minutes out of every hour. Rest before you get tired, he recommends.

The authors of The Power of Full Engagement likewise recommend building in time to recharge and replenish, based on the practice used by elite athletes known as interval training.

Stephen Covey refers to the restorative practice of taking time out as 'sharpening the saw'  and in my experience it makes sense to sharpen the saw early and often.

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Whatever your plans for the break, may the festive season bring you peace and replenishment, and the New Year prosperity and fulfilment.

Kind regards,
Michael Carman
Director I Michael Carman Consulting
PO Box 686, Petersham NSW 2049 I M: 0414 383 374

© Michael Carman 2013