In the Midst of Chaos
“In the Midst of Chaos there is opportunity”. This quote by Sun Tzu from ‘The Art of War’ is true in so many ways. We seem to be surrounded these days with the virtues of “smart” work. How to manage that finite resource we call time. As with many things in life, there is no black or white. Business generally operates in the ‘gray area’. No workplace is completely chaotic, or completely strategic. The amount of chaos in a workplace is like a pendulum that swings from organized too ridiculously chaotic. Where does your workday fall?
Long-term damage can come from working in chaotic environments. Once a chaotic culture starts to build, it’s hard to reverse. Task lists are never completed because new urgent issues arise that take priority over everything else. The problem with a chaotic work environment is that it is reactive. Over time, people get used to living with tasks that aren’t completed. Instead of striving harder to finish what they started, they become resigned to leaving work undone. And frustration begins to build.
If you find yourself in a turbulent work environment, you’re not alone. But what can you do about it? It takes persistence, patience, and courage. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Small Number of Priorities: Start by setting up to three priorities for your team. Communicate that these are the most important things to focus on. Make sure everyone knows what they are.
- Communicate: Communicate your priorities to your supervisor. Get their agreement that these are your focused areas.
- Stick to Priorities: Stand up for your priorities and try your best to stop them from being pushed aside.
- Stay Strong: Remember that if you’re in a chaotic work environment, most people around you will be used to it. You will need to be the voice of reason. Reiterate why focusing really matters.
- Understand Why: Be clear on why working in a more strategic, structured, and planned way will be beneficial for you and your team and why it matters.
Go with the Flow
Lastly, try to follow the natural wave of your work environment. Maybe save phone calls for when the ‘noise’ dies down. Do lighter work when the chaos rises and maybe table the most important tasks for a later time. And remember Sun Tzu – there really is opportunity in the midst of chaos.
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