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The fine art of "when"?

“Where is the unit? , my Science teacher asked calmly. I took a pause to look at my answer sheet. The ‘Velocity' calculation in my answer sheet didn’t have a unit. “But my answer is correct madam, only unit is missing”, I said naively.

“Without the right unit it makes no sense”, she said.

That day the hyper achiever in me learnt an important lesson - unit is very important.

Fast track, 30 years later, I am in multiple coaching conversations with hyper-achievers.

They come with different goals - Career growth, work life balance, leadership behaviour changes etc.

Over the course of coaching conversation, on one hand I hear a sense of disappointment & frustration over things not moving in a timeline (Self-critical). On the other hand, I also hear - I am there already with just one action on the weekend. Why should I be consciously be watching my behavior? (I have arrived!)

We take a step back and look at reality. When did you start?, How long have you been at it? What's happening already? What are your small wins? What missed?

What comes out of the answers to these questions is that - the timeline in which they measure progress or take action can lead to false sense of lack of accomplishment/ un-due sense of accomplishment.

Here are couple of classic examples - Measuring work life balance over a cumulative timeline (weeks, months, years), measuring career progress in days and months/projects, measuring behaviour change in months etc. This is why:

1. When you look at work life balance, the unit of measurement has to be daily. If you make it weekly, monthly, yearly, there is imbalance.

Eg: I will work 5 days in a week, exercise 2 days in weekend. I will spend time with my family in weekends. I will learn a new hobby when I retire.

Anything to do with body mind does not understand cumulation - your body eats, sleeps, runs at a bare minimum in ‘everyday’ unit of time. Your weekend "balance"/retirement hobbies will not create a huge impact on your body and mind today. Repeating the same over years will get you some progress not the progress you desire.

2. When you look at your career, it has to be long term in years - while you can take everyday actions to progress, the peaks/troughs happen over years. Viewing one project that didn't go well with a magnifying lens and branding yourself as a failure does you no good. Making yourself Mr. Knowitall because your last project went well is just recency effect.

3. Leadership behaviour change becomes sustainable over 6-8 months. A habit starts forming in 21 days and sustaining in 180 days. Complaining that relationship trust don’t improve by a delta change in your behaviour within a month is not realistic. It puts pressure on you and makes you unresourceful.

Deciding and working towards a right granularity of time helps you to plan, measure and accept progress realistically.

Indeed, without the right unit - it really does not make sense.

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