Thrive in Five Trade-Offs

Thrive in Five: Trade-Offs

9 MinutesIn Thrive in Five

Trade Offs

I am posting this encouraged by your kind messages about my November “do less in 2020” note. Thank you so much for that. As I explore this “do less of what you don’t want/more of what you do want” theme with clients and friends, I have been struck by how conscious we are of the trade-offs that we might need to make, to do less or more.

So this month’s Thrive in Five is about trade-offs.

If this note is TL;DR for you, but sleep is an issue in your life, the first link in the first trade-off might be worth 5 minutes of your time.

Sleep v anything else

Are you getting the amount of sleep you want/need? Create a “go to sleep” routine.

Lots of books were written about sleep in 2019; to my mind, most of them over-complicated the issue. There is no doubt however that the attention economy is doing a grand job at enticing us to stay up later, to scroll, to shop, to watch. The trade-off between sleep and everything else, in a world which wants us to wake up super early to be productive and stay up late to be on top of the latest TV show, latest work email, or breaking news, is one that we have to work hard to be in control of.

My biggest tip on the sleep thing is to put effort into preparing to go to bed , as much as we prepare to get up and get out in the morning. While we can function with less sleep in the short-term, there are longer-term trade-offs, particularly as we get older. And because of current culture and tech design, we have to be intentional about sleep because we are bombarded with triggers and cues to stay awake, otherwise.

I have to admit, this trade-off is the one that I am still nowhere near as consistently intentional as I want to be.

Doing v Being:

Schedule and protect time in your diary to do “nothing”.

This trade-off is particularly affected by the narrative that doing things and taking action is always the most important, “productive” thing to do. And sometimes it is…..but not always.

Spending a little time being/doing nothing, gives us space to listen to what our bodies might be signalling, for listening to our senses and feeling, for reflecting and pondering. The clichés about baths and walks are true, and I can send you details of the research on why this is….

And not paying attention to our body and senses, if there are things going on for us, may mean that our body feels it needs to make more of an effort to be heard – our bad back, our sore throat, our tired eyes, our aching head……

Not making space to reflect can mean that what felt like a productive decision to take action, then has to be unravelled, or results in unintended consequences.

My experience, reflected in the brilliant, successful people I have the fortune to coach, is that if we don’t make the space for the space, the doing tends to win, with some of the consequences above. This means that in a calendar that would otherwise be full of doing, the only way to “just be” is to schedule that too.

This trade-off can be unconscious rather than deliberate.

Today’s demands v Tomorrow’s world:

When are we forcing ourselves to think months or years down the line, rather than this month end or year end?

This isn’t just a work related short term versus long term trade-off. It comes through in the decision to stay in the office rather than get to the gym, to prioritise a work event over a relationship. It is also the decision to not have a face to face conversation with someone who isn’t performing well but hasn’t completely messed up yet, and instead to give them the answer to their latest question via email, to do the work for them.

In my consulting and coaching world, I see this trade-off most often simply classified as revenue today versus business development for revenue tomorrow.

The tip on this is that there is never going to be the perfect confluence of events to make it easy to prioritise the longer term (see also doing v being above). 15 minutes today doing something on this, is better than nothing for weeks. This tends to be a trade-off that people are very aware of making.

Tell v coach:

Be intentional about making time to grow relationships and people

Like all the trade-offs, as relevant in life as a lover, parent, friend as much as in the workplace, even if the language is slightly different…..We might say “tell v listen”….  I am going on further Time to Think  courses this year, so more on listening, and its impact on how it affects thinking, to come.

Perfection v progress:

Doing something small today towards a big thing is better than doing nothing about it for days on end, despite our good intentions

This can often play out as the “all v nothing” trade off – not starting something at all because there isn’t the ideal time period to do it: “I need to give myself half a day to review/write/organise/plan and because I don’t have this time, I’m not going to do anything at all”. Then this big thing keeps moving to tomorrow on our to do list, for weeks on end. For anyone who has experienced this, I would hope would also recognise that when we actually take a first step to start the thing, it rarely takes as long as we actually think it was going to. Taking a first step is the trick, even if that is planning the order of events or spending 5 minutes instead of the 5 hours planned.

This is another one of those trade-offs that feels more an unconscious than conscious one, we may not (want?) to recognise what we are doing.

I have posted this before but it remains a favourite reference, apparently an old Polish expression. It can be too easy to get pulled into other people’s Big Tops….

I do hope that some of this post has connected with you today, send any thoughts about it my way (


Do forward this on to anyone you think might be interested and they can email me

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