There is a great scene in the movie Braveheart, where William Wallace, aka Mel Gibson, steadies his men on the battlefield, as the better equipped and larger English force bears down on them. As his rag-tag Scottish army stand in a long line waiting for the enemy, he calls ‘Hold, hold, hold the line’. His men are nervous, but they do hold, inspired by his bravery and leadership. As the English are almost on top of them, led by their towering and intimidating knights on horseback, Braveheart yells ‘Now’, and his front line of soldiers bend down, pick up long spears carved out of tree branches, and hold them up at an angle, impaling the oncoming knights and horses. Gruesome but effective.
As I watched this, I was struck by how workers and leaders are often faced with a relentless onslaught of busyness, urgency and distraction. To me these are like three apocalyptic riders who search out and destroy our productivity (OK, so I am now mixing my movies, as this is veering into Lord of the Rings territory but stay with me).
As these riders and their armies bear down on us, we need to find the conviction and courage to hold the line, and not buckle and give in to the pressure. We need to hold the line and stay with what we believe to be the more important use of our time, rather than getting diverted from our priorities. Easier said than done, but with strong and inspiring leaders who lead by example, and coach their teams to fight for their priorities, it is possible.
Busyness is infectious, and once it takes hold, we can end up extremely busy without having the impact we should be having. Urgency is pervasive, and for many has become the default way they prioritise work. When they say, ‘This is important’ what they actually mean is ‘This is urgent’. And with that mindset, the risk is that everything becomes urgent.
Distraction is also everywhere in our workplace now, be that at the office or at home. We are distracted in online meetings, doing emails while we half listen to what is being said. We are distracted by email itself. We are distracted by social media. Even precious time spent with family is so often distracted time spent on our phone.
Braveheart made a stand against the tyranny of the English and said enough is enough! Have you got the conviction in your priorities to make a stand against busyness, urgency and distraction? Have you got the courage to negotiate with those around you to protect your focus?
Sometimes we need to hold steady in the face of pressure. And of course, sometimes we need to give in and choose which battles to fight and which to leave. But if you are intentional in this, you will spend more of your time, energy and attention on the things that matter in your role.
They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our Freedom! OK, back to work now.