Warning: Your Mileage May Vary on this specific post. Consider this an open idea, or a hack in progress.
I work best when I thread my professional efforts and my personal projects together in the same space. I might have a window open on the computer and in it, I’m defining a process flow for a new engagement model, and in another, I am writing a post to share with you here on Lifehack.org. Later in the day, it might be a mix of sending off emails to vendor partners and drawing in my sketchbook. When, for whatever reason, I put down my personal projects and hunker down into the business of the day, I often feel less engaged.
This would’ve escaped my notice had I not found myself having the same conversation twice with two different people today, both claiming that they seemed to feel much more energy to do their “day job” work when they mixed in a little bit of their personal passions alongside it.
Often times, I joke with software engineers that we should all quit our jobs and become lumberjacks. At least then, we’d have tangible proof that our efforts mattered. When code gets thrown out, when projects get canceled, when forces much larger than ourselves shift things in a direction we can’t control, things feel daunting, maybe even close to hopeless. It’s easy in those situations to take one’s foot of the gas.
But what if you had a way to stir some of your own personal passions in between the cracks of what it is you do to make a buck? What if you could guarantee much more passionate output on what you’re being paid to do by being permitted to thread into your day that which really ignites a spark in you?
For most of us, our reaction to feeling the malaise about our contributions not really impacting the organization as much as we want is to retreat into something innocuous. Some of us reorganize our email systems. Others recommit to smoking. Some just take longer and longer lunch breaks and leave early as many days as they can.
Bosses see it, I’m sure. For some, they just don’t know what they can do to motivate. For others, they get the sense that they wish they could do the same thing.
What if there were an option for your supervisor to say, “Hey Ramesh, I know things have been a bit bad lately. Tell me what you wish you were doing right now.”
Okay, for some, the answer might be “fishing,” or “go home,” or similar, but if you and your supervisor felt you could truly talk about it, if it were a company imperative for people to be as engaged as they possibly could be, wouldn’t a “passion allowance” be an interesting way to keep the juices flowing.
For example, I recently attended the Podcast Academy in Boston, and I came back really invigorated about how our company might be able to employ podcasts internally as communications and learning tools, and externally, as a way to promote what it is we do to our prospective new customers. I was fired up, and I knocked down my VP’s door over and over to tell him about some other ways to spin what I’d learned into a neat company project.
Oddly, my assigned work flourished at this same time, regardless of the final outcome of the podcast request.
Would it Hurt Production?
I believe we’re already finding ways to drag against production when things get daunting, when we feel overworked, when our best efforts feel like they’re for not. I believe our current methods are all negative, but also all easier to hide. We can discretely slow things down far easier than we can openly embrace things we’re passionate about.
So maybe yes. There might be a hit to productivity as opposed to sticking strictly to the job at hand, but I can imagine where the return on investement would be showing up: in excitement, in overall satisfaction, in a near-tangible electricity about what it is you’re passionate about, balanced by your current job.
There are several ways people consume time during an average work day. “Work” rarely takes up all the hours we populate our places of employment. What differences could mixing passion in with the work at hand bring?
As I said, this probably will warrant lots of interesting commentary, especially heavy on the “there’s no way that would fly at MY place.” But I wonder how much of what we consider our standard work environment is considered far more permissive than the office spaces of 1964. Could it be this is yet another shift in the cultural needle that must happen to accommodate new trends in the way people get things done? What do you think?