Close up of someone repairing a yellow fishing net by hand

Neither fishing nor mending nets

This is a phrase I heard early in my career. Not from fishermen, but from an Electrical Superintendent in a papermill.

Bob was good at quietly nudging people to focus what they spent their time on. When he thought folk needed to stop unproductive activities, he used the phrase “This is neither fishing, nor mending nets”.

When it came to work, he saw ‘fishing’ as being activities to progress a task. He also realised that not all work was ‘fishing’. You did need to ‘mend your nets’ too.

Bob was a wise old Liverpudlian. Nothing distressed him at work. He kept his private life very separate from his work life, except for a beer with workmates on the way home.

The ‘nets’ Bob referred to were a multitude of things. In the obvious sense they were the tools that we used to keep the mill operational.

He also knew that people needed rest. A 24-hour continuous production site can make big demands on the specialists in the organisation. He was one of the few managers who would send people home if they were working too many hours.

We can learn a lot from Bob.

  1. When you are working, make sure you are progressing the job in hand, don’t waste time in busywork.
  2. You need to take care of your resources, whether physical or mental.
  3. Have boundaries. Don’t let work be everything in your life.

With these foundations Bob was one of the most laid-back people I have worked with. He was also the most effective in his role. Bob was the person we put in charge when we needed to turn things around.

Bob retired fit and healthy from a long and successful career. Despite working in a pressurised industry for all his career, he never suffered from burnout.

We need reminders from people like this, that life need not be stressful all the time. Take time to mend your nets. Let people know that you need to mend your nets. Be aware of where you draw your boundaries and stick to them.

If you are neurodivergent, your nets need particular attention. Some holes are differing sizes from the standard fishing net. Some parts of your net are extremely strong, and you can use them regularly to favorable effect. Don’t neglect the other areas of your net though, the fish will escape through the poorly maintained bit.

Which bits of your ‘nets’ do you need to take care of so that you can land your ‘fish’?

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