The demons of the red light

When work throws up a red light, deal with it and seek to fix it. But then, get back to work. Just. Keep. Moving.


Sitting in traffic… I spend so long sitting in traffic I wrote this article and learned Mandarin in a single journey.

The site of a light turning from green to amber to red just as I approach the junction never fails to irk me. Living in the city that is Dublin this is an everyday phenomena. I’ve also noticed that traffic lights affect my journey time when walking – I live close to work and still can be delayed on the days I don’t drive in. If I hit a red light at all of the five crossings on my way to work my commute can increase by up to 12 minutes. Madness.

I do a lot of driving and I’ve noticed now that I subconsciously take slightly different routes to ones I have driven for years. Well, not so subconsciously that I didn’t notice but you get the idea. I often choose a route that has less traffic lights and potential time delays even if it is longer than another way with more lights. All to avoid stopping and starting every couple of minutes. I prefer these drives. I relish the lack of interruption and the tedious shift of gears, breaking and edging forward that comes with traffic lights and queues. I’ve also noticed that even though my chosen route isn’t any quicker, and in some cases even longer, I’m more settled because I’m always moving forward. The same principle applies in airport security queues. By making everyone snake their way through a maze of barriers you create the impression of always moving forward as opposed to standing and shuffling forward every couple of seconds if you were to queue in one long, straight line. All with the added bonus of a more efficient use of space.

I’ve begun to realise that this mentality behind moving forward applies to the way I work and how I handle my own personal tasks. There are times that I sit down to a task or a project and really dig in and get to work. I build up that mental momentum and the work seems easy, ideas are flowing and outcomes are being delivered. Then a barrier rises. A red light. There’s a question I can’t answer or I need a project plan to be approved before continuing. Still running on all that productivity petrol I request the information I need to move forward and send it to my colleague or boss for their input. Then I wait. Instead of returning to my work I start something else. Let’s say that it takes a week for my colleague to get back to me with the relevant information. That’s a week I’ve gone without spending time on this certain project. It now looks unfamiliar, why did I ask them that again? I stare at the answer they’ve given me and now I can’t work out how it applies to my initial thought process. By abandoning the project completely I have set myself back trying to re-acquaint myself with my own work. Then the inevitable happens, I persuade myself that I’ll come back to it when I’ve completed the work I’ve since picked up in the interim.
Danger Zone.

Had I kept moving forward with my work while waiting for an answer maybe I could have worked out an alternative or focussed on a different aspect and made headway there. I’ve gone from cruising with momentum and confidence to edging forward with doubt and procrastination.

When work throws up a red light, deal with it and seek to fix it. But then, get back to work. If you can’t move directly forward find a way to move sideways, even move backwards and review the work you’ve already done.

Just. Keep. Moving.

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