Circular economics: Why my work changes with the seasons - iamcatmclean.com

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Circular economics: Why my work changes with the seasons

The take-make-waste industrial model is a production line of destruction that leads to a dead end. Literally.

This style of economy informs our psychology. It’s not enough to be pulling 40 hour weeks. It’s not enough to rest. It’s not enough just to have an interest for interest’s sake. The only interests worth having are those that we can monetise and commoditise. You need a side hustle. 

The unspoken message in the take-make-waste model is this: The economy is always on, so why not you? You need to be always on. If you can’t handle it, then the economy has taken everything it needs from you. It’s made some money from you. You’re used up. You’re waste.  

In despair, we Google productivity tips. It must be OUR fault for not having enough hours in the day. For lacking energy. The search results seem to agree.

With enough of these searches, Google soon gets the idea that we’d find value in those ads from ‘productivity gurus’ whose scammy, unsolicited lectures claim they can teach you to read 800 books a year while running 15 businesses and sleeping 2 hours a night IF you just hand over that credit card.

Productivity education abounds yet workplace productivity is at all time lows. Burn out is a sanctified rite of passage. But is that how we really ought to live? Is that how we want to honour ourselves and our place on this Earth?

I once worked with a mental health social enterprise that promotes conscientiousness and resilience. I therefore expected a considered business practice, a nurturing leader and high employee morale.

Instead, I encountered chaotic business practice, an absent leader and a strung out cluster of contractors. Oh and did I mention scarcity tactics?

I tried very hard to be a calming and diplomatic force in that organisation. But one person can only be so much and I was soon sucked into the chaos too. They took so much of my time,  energy and self-worth. They made something out of it. Then they discarded me with no notice, dismissing my concern that as a mental health organisation, they should treat people with more humanity.

I’d been fooled back into the take-make-waste model. Damn, that got me into a toxic funk of cynical nihilism.

I took some time off for introspection. I realised that experience had made me miserable because I was placing the needs and amorality of a dysfunctional business above my own needs and moral compass. If I continued to enable that kind of behaviour, then who was I to call myself a practitioner of conscious business? Wouldn’t I just be another example of a entremanure? What could I do to change?

I started thinking about the circular economy, a concept that makes up part of my own philosophy, something I call the Economics of Enough.

The circular economy is the practice of taking only what you need, making only what you need, and wasting nothing. 

It calls out our model of infinite taking, making and wasting for what it is — a destructive delusion. It rejects the concept of infinite fiscal growth, extending the definition of growth to include nurturing practices.

I started to wonder how I could apply its principles to my business. I mulled over it for months. I couldn’t come to a decision. It was winter. Everything was blah. Winter is a time when I have a big dip in creative and innovative energy. Given summer is when I reach my energetic peak, I thought maybe I’d just give up and go into hibernation until then.

Then I realised nature was telling me the answer to my impossible question. I wanted a circular economy-based business. What else is circular? The seasons. 

What if I actually did operate according to the seasons? What would that look like?

I have enough lived experience as a neurodivergent to know the line between hare-brained ideas and radically good ones isn’t all that distinct. Sometimes it’s a matter of just doing the weird idea.

So I did the weird idea. I redesigned the way I work to reflect the seasons. Each season has a different focus and purpose that reflects what’s happening in nature at that time. Here’s how it plays out:

Spring

The first day of my business year begins on September 22, the spring equinox.

Spring is associated with new life, creation, nurture, growth and rebirth. It’s a time to thaw out the old braino. That’s why in spring I focus on things like: 

  • Creating new connections with people and growing my community
  • Nurturing new ideas 
  • Repurposing or giving new life to old or tired ideas

Summer

Summer’s abundance of warmth and light put me at my energetic peak. This is how I use that energy: 

  • I take on more client work than usual. The long days mean I have more flexibility in how many hours I work without feeling like I’m missing out on life.
  • I work from 5AM to around 1PM
  • I turn my the ideas I nurtured in spring into realities in the form of new or updated services or content creation.
  • After creating new connections in spring, I use summer to build the relationships.

Autumn

Autumn is when the seeds you’ve sown in spring and summer mature and create abundance. It’s a time to harvest the fruit and collect resources in preparation for winter. In Autumn, I focus on: 

  • Finishing off my biggest summer projects 
  • Securing a smaller yet more stable amount of work 
  • Evaluating how my most productive months went. What went well? What could I have done better? How will I repurpose, repair and regenerate my business through winter?

Winter

When the trees lose all their leaves and the flowerbeds are bare, winter can seem like a barren, dead time. If you look under the surface, though, there’s so much going on. Bulbs are putting down their roots, the soil is absorbing nutrients and the world is preparing itself for rebirth. 

I hit my energetic and creative lows in winter. The lack of light and the cold air make me just a bit blah. I no longer fight against that. Instead, I see it as a time to absorb nutrients and lay down roots for the coming year. Here’s how:

  • I keep highly creative client work to a minimum
  • I absorb the nutrients of my learning experiences and achievements through the year
  • I spend more time learning new skills and understanding new realities
  • I change and shorten my working hours. I start work at around 11AM and finish at 4PM. 

So far, this has been the best way I’ve created consistency in my business. It hasn’t always been easy. It hasn’t always been accepted as ‘best practice’. But for me, it is enough. Will I become rich? No. Do I want to become rich? Not in financial terms. Will I be comfortable in measured abundance? Yes.

I take only what I need. I make only what I need. Everything has a recurring, regenerative and repairable value. Nothing and nobody goes to waste. 

For me, this is the best way I can live by my philosophy of the Economics of Enough.

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