Sisyphus was condemned by Hades to spend eternity in the underworld rolling a gigantic stone up a steep slope, knowing full well that when it gets to the top, it will just roll back down, and that he will have to perpetually continue the cycle by pushing it back up the hill over and over again.
I think most of us have some kind of daily or weekly routine that we adhere to. But on occasion, extraordinary events in our lives force us to depart from this routine. During those times we may find that the various steps in our daily dance may not nearly be as productive as we think.
I know this happened to me just last week. Being ill is no fun. But as I was going from doctor to doctor for this or that test, I began to think… “what a waist of my productive time.” As I spent most of my time “waiting” I thought about what I would normally be doing with those “lost” hours. I realized that in some cases my normally scheduled (routine) activity was not much more productive than the “waiting” that I was doing at that moment. At first this depressed me. Then I thought…. WOW – there’s productive potential here. At least while in waiting my mind could develop creative new solutions to my client’s challenges. Once on the mend, I could completely re-evaluate these solutions and achieve a whole new level of productivity.
The fact was that some of the tasks that I was so anxious to perform were often times borne out of worry (what I rationalized as CONCERN). An example was a series of phone calls or emails to ensure that several other parties accomplished specific task for clients. In reality, much of these communications tended to be non-productive since that person was already doing what I had expected. In fact, my communication, rather than empowering them could very well impede them from completing the task. I found that although I wasn’t directly involved in these during the week… more got done. Ouch! That hurt.
What happened to me? I was never like this before. In fact I was still writing and preaching about delegation, accountability, empowerment to my clients, classmembers, web visitors and radio show listeners. The problem was that I had inadvertently slipped back into my “old roles.” And so had my clients and many of their competitors. Maybe September 11th did that to us. Or the Enron debacle. Or the stock market. Or even the recession itself. Nevertheless, it was a good thing! I now realize that change is imminent. Either YOU decide to move change forward to a better alternative OR the syncope of the mundane will relegate you to change BACK to your most comfortable paradigm. Often time this is not the most prudent framework for success.
What my clients hire me to do is not so much “get things done” for them but rather find NEW WAYS of doing things – more efficient, effective, productive, strategic, collaborative and profitable ways. Then I began seeing this very behavior lacking in some of my clients. Remember, I’m talking about very highly regarded, successful, educated, even wealthy professionals. Business people at the top of their game. In nearly every case they were focused on managing minutia rather than masterminding metamorphosis. I saw this all around me. It was an epiphany. Like lifting the scales from my eyes. Like I could see something that was hidden from the rest of the world. A world filled with a myriad of Sisyphus all making great effort to push a huge bolder up a steep slope. Then chasing it back down, only to push it to the top again. And on and on.
In short, by applying The Myth of Sisyphus to life’s daily routine experiences, we can maximize productive work time, free ourselves from greater stress, validate our peers and generate more creative, proactive solutions in every area of our lives.Here are some activities that you can do to transform your mundane task potential to productive strategic potential:
- Catch yourself at various times during the day and test your productive potential. Are you doing something that is task oriented? Could it be delegated to someone more efficient and effective at the task?
- Ask how you could approach solving the particular problem from a strategic perspective.
- Heighten your awareness. Transform your attitudes towards any situation, and therefore, transform your life. We are what we think and even better we often become what we speak.
- Make a list of goals that give you a sense of purpose in life. Why are they important to you?
- Ask your friends what makes their lives worth living; compare their answers with your own.
- Explore the negative frame of mind that can sap your motivation (explain why this situation seems futile, frustrating, or hopeless). What can you tell yourself daily to turn this around?
- How can you change your attitude to a positive frame of mind (identify some goals; define some sense of purpose in your plight)?
Like Sisyphus, we all face situations that involve seemingly insoluble, recurrent events in our lives. The workman of today labors everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent.
If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn. Particularly when it is self-inflicted.While somewhat philosophical, I hope these ideas help you to improve your productivity potential. If employed consistently I know that they will succeed in producing greater effectiveness for your business in this difficult economy .