Sustainability could be defined as a principle according to which no more should be consumed than can be replenished, regenerated or made available again in the future. Usually we think in macroscopic dimensions of our environment when it comes to sustainability. For me, however, sustainability begins on a much smaller scale, with myself and the sustainable use of my own personal resources, such as time, energy and knowledge. It is time to talk about relics from the industrial age and especially about how effective and sustainable the strict temporal and spatial separation of work and life (as if work were not life!) in terms of eight-hour work days really is.
Knowledge work requires concentration. To this end, universities have libraries in which one can focus on studying. In most of our companies there are no such zones for uninterrupted work. The credo there is teamwork and its highest value is communication. The results are working days that consist mostly of scheduled or spontaneous meetings with blocks of work in between that are too short for any meaningful in-depth work and are only used to respond to the flood of e-mails accumulated during these meetings or that are more or less entertainingly wasted on the smartphone. All this in open-plan offices with noise levels that reduce any form of concentrated knowledge work to absurdity anyway or only make it tolerable through isolation with noise cancelling headphones.
We really don’t lack opportunities and choices. There are always more ideas than can actually be implemented. This is true at the level of the individual as well as for teams and organizations. The fact that technology makes our world turning ever faster and that our world is becoming ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, i.e. tending more and more towards VUCA, leads to an unprecedented wealth of opportunities and ideas. This makes it all the more important to focus which is the responsibility of leadership. And focus begins with the apparently forgotten art of saying no.