Plan B: lessons learned

The last few weeks have not gone entirely to plan. Now I like a good plan, so this has been both frustrating and a useful reminder of things I know but don’t always practice. So what have I learned and hope to hold on to as life resumes its normal pattern?

I’ve been reminded that perfection is over-rated and that often something is better than nothing. Yes I know, “if something is worth doing its worth doing well” and I agree. It's worth doing as well as it needs to be done. It is possible to get stuck believing that because some things are truly important, they need to be done absolutely properly and therefore need more (and more) time and information. But often action, even if flawed or incomplete, is what is needed otherwise activities get planned but not done. In a seminar on leading in uncertainty recently I was struck by the presenter’s assertion that as things become more uncertain we can rely less and less on data (which tells us about the past). Rather action is necessary because uncertain futures are created by the actions people take.

Not pursuing unnecessary perfection links to reminders to spend my energy wisely and to pick my issues carefully. Always true, but especially if I’m unable to do everything I would like and have to decide what to say “no” to. The flip side to this not to close the door prematurely on future opportunities because I can’t do it today (I don’t have to), it might not work out (it might) and if something else happens I won’t be able to (make the decision then, not now).

When I can’t do it all I need to get the support I need. I see self reliance as a virtue so this is a tricky one for me. Strategic vulnerability is the key. By this I mean letting some key people (who I was confident would be supportive) know what is happening rather than maintaining a façade. My openness allowed them to be their best, responding in a professional and personal way. It deepened our engagement, built mutual understanding and gave me the support and strategies I needed to get over the bumpy patch.

I’ve also been reminded that the important things (activities and relationships that give direction, wellbeing and joy) are rarely urgent and can too easily left for another day while I get on with being busy. But busyness without firm underpinning is exhausting and ultimately ineffective. So I will take time and try to spend it wisely with a long term view.

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