We’re human beings – not human doings

Mary-Jane Kingsland

Mary-Jane Kingsland - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

I've recently returned after a bit of a break and during my time off I reviewed those activities that dominate our working lives now.

I reached two significant conclusions:

1) There is a deluge of information of every kind, transmitted in every which way and of biblical proportions, to which we are all subject, 24/7 and thus:

2) There has never been a better time to take back control.

Years ago, we had a humble in-tray. It sat on our desk and filled up. Although challenging in itself, provided we worked diligently we had a fighting chance of getting on top. Moreover we left our work at work – now it follows us home. As a consequence, we now work without time boundaries, our working day extends into evenings and weekends and there is a relentless expectation that if someone contacts us we will respond immediately.


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My default position when I want to make a change is to find a self-help book, and so I have brought David Allen's 'Getting Things Done'.

I thoroughly recommend it if you are feeling under the cosh and want to take back control of your working day and indeed your life. The book is a hit in the USA and is dedicated to 'all those who have too much stuff in their lives, too many great ideas to develop and too little time to get it all done' – that'll be us then.

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The topic of being super organised came up in conversation when a colleague mentioned that she often thought up her best ideas in the shower. There is a good reason for this and it is part two of my new found sense of purpose.

For the majority of our day our attention is focused outwards, towards the details of the problems we are currently solving. Thus, the remote associations, or insights; those moments of clarity that spotlight new ideas, lies temporarily dormant. Therefore, it is often more productive to simply be.

Relax and clear your mind in whatever way works best for you.

Research proves that doing something habitual, such as going for a walk, mowing the lawn, or indeed taking a shower, enables you to relax and access peripheral information that is blocked during intense periods of focus.

This reminds me of the old adage that we are 'human beings', not 'human doings'.

Recognising the need for down time in your working week will not only increase your productivity, but will also give you a greater sense of achievement.

The third pillar of my quest is Mindfulness. I am sure you have heard about it in some shape or form. Ruby Wax is a proponent and attributes her new calmer, less destructive self to her studies on the subject. In essence, it involves the daily practice of being in the moment, of really paying attention. It is proven to benefit health, wellbeing and happiness – and is also an excellent way to feel more in control and indeed open your mind to the fact that you still have the freedom of choice; i.e. we are not slaves to technology and our own personal development should be also be given priority.

Research shows that if you prioritise and build in, 'me time', you will benefit from greater creativity, resilience and the ability to be spontaneous and enjoy, rather than endure your daily working life.

n Mary-Jane Kingsland is a Business Coach and licensed Emotional Intelligence Practitioner

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