In This Episode…
Having time to reflect on your challenges and consider your options is an important thing to include in your way of working. That’s why I like Saturdays so much. The usual hustle and bustle of the business week has subsided and I have the time, space and mental energy to think.
Well today I have done just that and have got clear on what at least one of my issues is, formulated a strategy and put together a plan.
And that is what today’s episode is about.
Episode Show Notes…
How Motorway Traffic Jams And My Productivity Are Loosely Related
When I used to drive thousands of miles every year travelling from one speaking event to another, I found myself spending a lot of time on motorways.
I personally think our road infrastructure is pretty good and on the whole, you can get from A to B quite easily. There are of course peak times when traffic is at its worse, but generally if you time your journey right you can get to where you want to go pretty comfortably.
But there were occasions, even at the quietest of times, when I’ve found myself stuck in a log jam of traffic. All three lanes of the motorway full of stationary traffic, many with their engines switched off because we’ve been there for so long.
The most frustrating part of being sat in situations like that is seeing the traffic on the other side of the motorway flowing freely.
Sometimes the cause of the delay is because of an accident – a lorry has jack knifed and blocked the carriageway, or a towing trailer has become unhooked and crashed across all three lanes – sadly there has been a pile up with multiple collisions.
However there are times when there is absolutely no obvious reason for the delay. After sitting in stationary traffic for 20, 30, 40 minutes, the cars ahead of you start to pull away and then pretty quickly I’m back in free flowing traffic….with absolutely NO evidence of any RTA causing the delay.
This always used to be a mystery to me until I saw a documentary years ago about the variable speed limits they were introducing on the then new M25 orbital.
It seems the reason for the random traffic jams with no accident is due to cars bunching up.
Let me explain.
The car ahead puts on their brakes for what ever reason. I see them and react. Now I don’t react instantaneously, there is a tiny delay due because of the time taken to notice and because of my own speed of reaction.
If I’m travelling at a high speed and maybe closer to the car in front than I should, then I’m likely to over react with my braking.
Now there is likely to be a car behind me who sees the idiot in front of them suddenly put their brakes on. They too react but of course there will be another delay.
If there are too many cars travelling too fast and too close to each other, the random braking of the car at the front will trigger a succession of the cars following to brake too causing them to slow down until eventually at some point a car way back in the line will be forced to stop.
If that car stops, then the car behind them stops too and so on.
If this happens across all three lanes, you’ll very quickly get a section of the motorway where the traffic is stationary.
Now the cars at the front of the bunch will quickly be able to pull away. But at the back of the bunch cars will still be slowing down and stopping because of the volume of the traffic.
When the rate of cars arriving at the back of the bunch is greater than the rate of cars leaving the front of the bunch, you get a long term traffic log jam.
All because someone was going too fast, too close and had to brake suddenly,
What this documentary showed was the impact of introducing variable speed limits to solve this problem .
The problem of the bunching up is primarily caused by cars travelling too close and too fast.
Now the only thing the Highways agency can control in these situations is the speed limit of the traffic. What they showed was by lowering the speed cars travel at, even if they were close to each other, when a car did brake, there was more time for the car behind to react and slow down without stopping.
So by introducing the variable speed limit, the Highways Agency keep the traffic moving. When there is a lot of traffic, they reduce the speed from 70mph to one that will keep the traffic flowing.
More recent advances has seen spaced chevrons painted in each lane to show the minimum distance to keep between you and the car in front. That also contributes to keeping the traffic flowing.
Well what’s the relevance to this and productivity?
Well it might not be relevant to everyone but I think it is relevant to me.
As I reflect on how I have been applying myself to my various activities I liken it to speeding along and then bunching up and speeding along and then bunching up.
I’ve got so many things on my plate that I’m speeding along trying to do them all.
Then what happens is something crops up that needs my full attention such as preparation and delivery of a new masterclass, and then my activity bunches up on that whilst everything else grounds to a halt.
Then once I’ve dealt with that, I ramp up the activity on everything else again until the next bunch up occurs.
It is like the race between the tortoise and the hare, or the contrast between feast and famine.
Whichever metaphor I decide to use, the fact remains – how I am working right now is neither productive or healthy.
Something has to change….
Where I’m Going With This Now
And so given my traffic jam analogy and my recent dis-ease with how things are moving forward for me right now, I’m taking charge of this.
So here is what I have done today.
Let’s think back to the traffic analogy.
A healthy traffic flow is a steady traffic and a safe speed so bunching up doesn’t occur.
I’ve asked myself how can I address this over the last few days whilst this metaphor has been bubbling around in my mind.
Well the secret is a consistent flow of effort over a sustained period of time. The cumulation of tiny but important daily victories over the long term is the secret to my success.
At the moment I am lurching from one urgent demand on my time to another. This means I am more reactive and less proactive. I am responding to external stimulus rather than my own inner guidance mechanism.
There’s busy-ness but very little business.
What hit home to me this week was how long it has been since I have actually presented. It has been a number of weeks since I last presented to an audience.
I’m developing a speaking business yet I seem to be doing everything under the sun to build it EXCEPT the actual speaking.
I do have events planned with at least 3 in the next 10 days but I am not developing my craft often enough to grow and develop as a speaker.
When I faced up to that truth, I realised how absurd that situation was.
But to be fair, I am an accomplished speaker with over 1,500 live deliveries under my belt and so I could deliver a stunning session in 30 minutes. The only reason I couldn’t do it in less time is because that’s how long it takes me to set up the studio and live stream capability from scratch.
So I have gone back to basics and this morning, as it is Saturday, I have reflected on the challenges of recent weeks and realised I have to simplify my activity around my business model.
It didn’t take long but here it is:
Ultimately my product is live delivery.
Of course I have to market and sell the live delivery.
But I need to keep up to date and cutting edge by researching, developing and implementing peak performance productivity strategies so I can share them with others.
The secret is to have my daily, weekly and monthly activities reflect this business model.
Planning For Free Flowing Traffic
So today I have been working out when I am going to be working on the activities to support each of the blocks of my business model.
There’s a story I’ve referred to a number of times in this podcast about a professor educating her students on time management. She takes a jar and puts three big rocks into it leaving no room for any more.
A casual observer might think the jar is now full but the professor then adds a load of smaller rocks that fit in the gaps between the rocks until there is no more room for the smaller rocks.
Again the casual observer might think the jar is full until the professor then adds smaller pebbles that fit in the gaps between the smaller rocks.
This cycle is repeated with sand and then finally water until the jar is actually full. It’s a great reminder that we can always fit stuff in if we start by putting the big stuff in first.
And that is what I have done today.
I created my “jar’ in a spreadsheet. For every day of the week I had hour long chunks of time from 5:00am through to 7:00pm.
And then based on my business model and knowing what I know about my current schedule and commitments I added in my big rocks, then my small rocks, then the pebbles, and the sand and finally the water.
Here’s what it looks like:
The 7.00pm finish is important because as I mentioned yesterday, I think having enough energy to fulfil on my goals and aspirations is key and at the moment, I am working far too hard.
Now that I have done this, I feel calm. I feel relieved and more importantly I feel confident this is a system I can work.
Now I know it is just a framework because things will change as I get bookings in at different times of the day. Occasionally I will have to adjust and adapt with the needs of the business.
But what is clear is where the rocks are.
My time allocation during my day reflects what my current business model demands.
All I’ve got to do now is be disciplined enough to keep to that allocation and do what I say I am going to do, when I say I am going to do it.