The Six Week Delusion

By Juliet Funt|04-11-2020 | 4 Min Read
Source: Adobe Image Library

A common request was delivered to my inbox recently. An executive from a marketing company wanted to interview me for their corporate blog. These types of invitations are flattering but hard to link to results. They feel good but threaten to steal time without a return.

And I should have said, “No thank you.” But a flaw in thinking prompted me to say yes. I replied that now was not a good time but I’d be happy to comply in August, about six weeks away. Because according to my calendar, my thinking and, as we will soon discover, my powerful delusion – August was wide open and would be a cake-walk compared to the busy mid-June I was currently knee-deep in.

Only if I really think about it, if honesty and clarity truly prevail, mid-June looked exactly the same way to me back at the end of April. It looked open and fluid and interview-ready. But somehow behind my back has filled itself to bursting. As future time always does. And as future time always will.

The phenomenon I’ve just described is the Six-Week Illusion, a trick our minds play on us as they downplay the potential busyness of time a bit down the road. The concrete sense that a coming time will be calmer and easier than the hectic present persists.

Let’s fast-forward ourselves six weeks from today into my future and see exactly what August will hold. My three boys will still be here and to my best guess, they will still need grilled cheese sandwiches, countless rides, and a patient referee. My personal needs for exercise, home maintenance and a social life will be waiting for me. My husband will need me. My clients will need me. Creative August business ideas will tap me on the shoulder and demand attention. But somehow the beautiful blankness of the unpopulated calendar creates a kind of fantastical hopefulness that affects my choices. I say “How about later?” and the vicious kicking of busyness down the road continues.

Understanding The Issue

It’s important to understand this particular type of pain-delay occurs only with mid-value requests. High-value requests receive an excited acceptance right away. Low-value requests are sent to the chopping block due to my clear boundaries and a good sense of maintaining WhiteSpace. It’s the middle-value ones that get ya’. They pique just enough interest to keep on the simmer but not enough to prompt immediate commitment.
The answer I slowly found was to delay my response to mid-value requests until after a little WhiteSpace .

When I see a mid-value request cross my desk, I insert a little wedge of thoughtful time and ask myself to inventory my motives behind saying yes. I separate – if I can – the emotional (such as the enjoyment of being asked), from the tactical, (if I really see this opportunity to move business forward). And lastly, I try to mentally envision the real August - to populate it with all of its inevitable to-dos and true snap-shot of busyness.

And if I’m still on the fence I try to choose the No, because Less is always a guiding principle in our office and I know I’ll never regret having too much time. I also know any decision that’s that that painful to make has two outstanding, very-close-to-equal options.

I still have a visceral, undeniable feeling that August will be simpler and easier. And in August I will maintain that illusion about early October…and in early October, about the New Year. I could use a time travel machine to visit my nervous system and workflow in future periods but until my friends in Silicon Valley make that a reality I’ll just rely on a bit of WhiteSpace to bring the future into focus.

Juliet Funt is the Founder and CEO of WhiteSpace At Work: She helps companies break free of busywork, make time to think, and recoup thousands of hours of talent capacity To learn more about Whitespace, email info@whitespaceatwork.com or check out WhiteSpaceAtWork.com.
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Juliet Funt is the founder and CEO at JFG (Juliet Funt Group), which is a consulting and training firm built upon the popular teaching of CEO Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think.
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