Over the past few decades the nature of work has shifted from one based primarily on producing goods to one driven by “knowledge work.”
The production economy was a model of activity (doing) fit into units of time. The key drivers were hours and output. The goals centered around time management and optimization.
In production, efficiency is the holy grail.
As we shifted to more “knowledge work” (an overly broad term that describes anyone who thinks for a living), we kept these metrics.
But applying measurements of units produced in a given amount of time makes no sense when we’re talking about creative work or healing work (both of which are included in “knowledge work”).
For example, one of the big problems with our healthcare system is that doctors tend to rush patients in an effort to fit in more appointments. Their rush to move through results in inattentive listening and ordering more tests than might be necessary.
How much you can produce in an hour may be a useful metric in a factory, but it’s not relevant to the most essential work of our time: creativity, problem-solving, healing, logistical planning, and anything else where we need to step back and consider the bigger picture.
Even in a production facility, someone is tasked with evaluating whether the process can be optimized. That work — technically “knowledge work” — requires stepping back to assess the process and thinking through how to optimize. It’s not an “output per time” task.
The Important Work Right Now
The work we need to do in our world right now requires us to attune to the problems before we can solve them.
Healing — in all its forms, from a medical doctor to a body worker to a reiki practitioner — requires attention and care. It requires presence.
Creative work — whether writing or painting, designing a building or an assembly line, or coding a website — requires spaciousness. Time to immerse in the work. Presence.
They’re talking about the same thing. And at the heart of it is the skill of Presence.
Presence means giving your attention to one thing, and bringing your awareness to it uninterrupted by external or internal triggers. It’s different from hyperfocus, in which you are oblivious to everything else around you. When you are present you are aware of what’s happening in the space, but not hijacked by every possible intrusion.
Cultivating presence is essential for healers, artists, creatives, and anyone else who wants to create meaning and impact in this world.
Presence can’t be measured in outputs per hour. It’s not necessarily efficient.
But it’s infinitely more effective when it comes to doing work that matters.