For all their good points, computers can also drive us mad. They chug along fine and then one day they grind to a halt. You haven’t done anything different but code piled on top of code has somehow caused a glitch. Luckily, a simple reboot - ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ - is usually enough to clear the pipes and get things flowing.
Surprisingly, humans aren’t actually too different. We also labour on, unwittingly repeating behaviours and allowing bad habits to take hold; Imperceptibly our performance slips, our personal interactions become less meaningful, and we lose sight of present reality versus a self-image based on the past. We are unaware that we too could do with a reboot.
The first step in this process is recognition of what is ‘normal’ and how you may have deviated from it.
Desensitisation to a situation can change a baseline measurement, such as happens to people who began doing a few late nights to cover a short term need but ended up doing so persistently over the long term, regardless of the need or lack of. This then becomes the standard for everyone around them until it becomes an unhealthy part of the office culture. Everyone knows of a company that has a reputation for ‘owning’ its employees in this manner.
Whilst work/life imbalance might be the most obvious area in need of correction, there are also many more facets of your life in which cracks may have surfaced unnoticed.
Perhaps you have begun to dominate your team or even your family life, overruling opinions or dismissing ideas out of hand? Or you might no longer delegate activities to team members either because you think it’s easier and quicker to undertake them yourself or because you aren’t sure their work will match your standards. Are you unknowingly bringing tensions from home into the office, or vice versa? Has your language changed, possibly becoming coarser or demonstrating subconscious bias.
Although granular in size, seemingly minor changes like these can mount imperceptibly to cause issues for you and those around you. It’s like the build up of code on code in the computer. You may have a flash of self-realisation but more often than not, it takes someone close to us to point out that we have deviated from our previous norm.
The good news is that there is a human version of the computer reboot: The Personal Reboot. Despite the name, it requires a bit more effort than merely flicking a switch off and on again.
The Personal Reboot comes in three parts. Firstly, recognising where you have gone wrong (past). Secondly, making measurable changes (present). Finally, keeping things in check to avoid a repeat (future).
In the first part of the Personal Reboot, honestly reflect back and find a point in time where you felt you had everything working fluidly. Ask yourself what elements in your life at that time made you and those around you happy — maybe you were able to find more meaning in your work, or your work/life balance was better? Or you were under lesser time constraints, had a team you trusted entirely, or even were you maybe rested from a recent holiday? It might also be that your responsibilities have changed or even your self-perception has been altered somehow.
Ideally, this discernment should be done in conjunction with others whose opinions you value, such as your spouse, your seniors, a coach if you have one, and, in certain circumstances, even with your team. The benefit comes from being open to the raw truth and advice from others. Write down the results in two columns titled, ‘Where I am succeeding’ and ‘What can I do better?’
Now starts part two of the Personal Reboot.
Prioritise the areas listed in the ‘What can I do better?’ column, with the one which will make the most difference at the top. For each item identify SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals that will help you effect the necessary change. For example, if you have drifted into a pattern of working late your goal could be to be home for a family dinner at least once a week, building up to more days as you can.
When making your SMART goals, remember that it takes around 21 days to break a habit and around 66 days to create a new one, so allow around three months all up to get your ultimate results. When you get to that point make sure you stop and smell the roses and congratulate yourself on a change well made, because it is by no means easy.
But even with great results you don’t get to rest on your laurels, as part three of the Personal Reboot is not so much an entity in itself but an ongoing process of revisiting parts one and two to ensure that you don’t slip into any detrimental habits.
So if you’re experiencing niggling glitches in your work or private life, perhaps it’s time to turn yourself off and back on again with a Personal Reboot. You’ll be running at full capacity again in no time.