When time flies by

Photo by  Craig Whitehead  on  Unsplash

On Friday, just before we were about to switch our laptops off and walk out for the weekend — Róisín, Karina, Lauren and I were the last four people in the office — dumbfounded how quickly the week had passed.

It felt like just moments ago, that we were walking into our office at 9:30am on Monday morning, and here we were about to say goodbye at 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon.

Where did the last five days go?

This sparked an interesting conversation.

Each day in our office seems to vanish so quickly we barely notice it. Each week flies by so quickly. Róisín calls it 'the vortex' and is in firm belief that it has something to do with the spirit animal that inhabits the office we're currently working from.

Ever since we moved in, days seem to whiz by, projects are over before they've begun and we're leaping from one new idea to another.

And yes, we're executing them as well.

It's like we're in a flow.

During the discussion, someone mentioned 'flow' and it reminded me of a great book I read years ago.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published in 1990 outlined the Hungarian psychologist's study into what makes people happy; finding that people are happiest when they are in 'a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation they're currently experiencing'.

This notion of 'flow' had me captivated — in a Wired Magazine interviewthe author described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

(Side note: Take note of the date of the Wired Magazine article above — they were talking about "websites and experiences" in 1996.)

This hits on why I think our 'vortex' exists in Gladstone St, South Melbourne (we're going to be moving soon and yes, there'll be an article about our move).

I believe there are reasons why our current situation feels like it's flying by at a rapid pace. These reasons have a lot to do with the rituals, rhythms and behaviours we've worked so hard to cultivate in our business. A culture that isn't perfect by any means, but has us pinching ourselves at certain points in the week as to where time is going.

I'm sure there are organisations out there that have other, more meaningful and impactful rituals and rhythms — I'd love to hear from you if you know of them.

October 2018 will mark my 11th year at Tank — and throughout these 11 years, even though I've had the heartfelt intent to create something positive, I've tried and failed many times. Throughout these failures I've come to learn new things and find a resolve to keep going in search of a working environment that is positive and nourishing for everyone that interacts with it.

I believe we've arrived at a moment in time where we are asking ourselves regularly, this simple, but insightful question:

"Why is time flying by?"

I believe we've found a state of flow.

I speak to, and mentor quite a few owners of creative businesses and we've all gone through similar adversity in our trials to create positive, healthy cultures in search of a working rhythm that is both profitable and nourishing for the people that are working in the business.

In unison, we've all arrived at a point in our businesses, finding the following elements as contributing factors to each of our situations.

Work that is challenging yet attainable: Everyone gets to input into the type of work we do and the clients we work with.

The ability to stay focussed on an activity: Even though we're in an open-plan office, we're respectful of our space and time, and keep interruptions to the a minimum. They exist and we're moving soon to a new space that will be even more conducive to both collaboration and deep work.

Clearly defined goals that each individual can control and influence: We outline our annual objectives at the beginning of the year for everyone to feed into. We outline each quarterly goal together as a team.

Deep work: It's difficult to find time and space to do deep work so we encourage people to work from home, onsite at a client or off site to be able to minimise interruption and focus on the task at hand.

A high sense of self-awareness: We consistently check in on who we are as a business and as individuals. We are clear on this and have a specific framework we work within.

Immediate, clear and constructive feedback: The shit hits the fan but hot spots are a minimum. We had a bad day in January and we were all shocked that we had a bad day. When someone is veering off task, feedback is immediate, clear and constructive so we can move on to what we are doing. Importantly, feedback is motivating.

Autonomy and accountability: Everyone in our team is autonomous — this is a mandatory. They're able to run with their own initiatives alone, without supervision or guidance; both of which are within arms reach when and if they need them. Accountability and responsibility is high — each person presents to our entire team on the results of their initiatives — even if they've failed to meet goals.

Aligned values: Ensuring we have people with aligned values is a critical part of our recruitment process and we seem to attract people who share our common beliefs. We lay out clearly how we work before prospecting employees have a chance to fill out their application — we're clear and honest about who we're looking for and who we're not.

A safe place: As with all of us around the world, our working lives blend seamlessly with our personal lives — and we make it a priority to ensure that we provide a safe environment where people can disagree with an idea, bring some personal shit to work or say openly "I'm not feeling it today, so I'm going home early."

Rituals and rhythms: I'm personally big on this and we have a range of them that are beginning to truly define our culture, values and even the identity of our brand in some aspects. The rituals and rhythms we have in place bookend our weeks, months, quarters — and they link clearly and logically to what we're all trying to achieve both personally and professionally.

So, I'm not sure if we have a spirit animal, a vortex or a strange version of Dr. Mihaly's Flow, but I think we have something that allows us to do work that is both challenging and nourishing; a good combination to lose yourself in for a few hours.