A Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture with Professor Longsword

July 25, 2021
Professor Longsword's Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture

Having been made aware that many people are struggling during this return to lockdown restrictions, I crafted a special, Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture to bring you some relief, some inspiration, and indeed a shot in the arm – both literally with vaccination, and figuratively with some MBA THINKING.

In this lecture, I explored three themes.

  • Applying Human Resource Strategy to getting jobs done around the home, especially for those of you with children at your disposal
  • Understanding the secret to applying discipline to forge new habits
  • How to choose food to lift your mood; complete with a shopping list and a recipe

Please note, this lecture was recorded live without the usual support crew, which means the green screen remained green and my microphone was a little bit hot, as they say.

You can watch the live video, below, and further down the page I have reproduced the text, complete with citations.

On behalf of all the faculty and students at The MBA School Of MBA Credentials, I wish you safety and happiness during the lockdown and our world’s gradual emergence from the grey cloud of Covid.

Watch the live recording of the Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture

Read the transcript of the Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture

Hello to all our students, faculty members, and interested members of the public, welcome to our first Lunchtime Lockdown Lecture from the MBA School Of MBA Credentials.

You will see behind me a green wall. This is new technology that we’ve installed here at the school to make our online lectures more exciting and creative. Unfortunately, due to lockdown restrictions, the young student who’s rostered on today to take control of my green areas, is unable to be here.

If you haven’t seen this technology before, the camera is able to replace the green backdrop with some exciting and enticing eye candy. In fact, my good lady wife has been so impressed by what green screens can do, that she’s ordered me some green pyjamas.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of that. And one of my lockdown jobs this afternoon is to install the camera equipment in our bedroom so that the “green magic” can happen.

But why have I gotten up before today? Why have I asked you to come?

I have been told that many people are struggling during this return to lockdown restrictions, and are in need of some relief, some inspiration, and indeed a shot in the arm – both literally with vaccination, and figuratively with some MBA THINKING.

So there are three themes that will guide me this afternoon during this short lecture.

  • The first is applying Human Resource Strategy to getting jobs done around the home, especially for those of you with children at your disposal.
  • The second is understanding the secret to applying discipline to forge new habits
  • And the third is borrowing from medical science to choose food to lift your mood – complete with a shopping list and a recipe.

So let us begin.

A new approach to household chores using MBA Thinking

There are many jobs that need doing around our homes. For example, on a daily basis my good lady wife and I take turns in tossing a salad, in the laundry we take turns when it comes to putting a load through, and in our backyard I not only feed the chooks, but I give the garden a good trim.

While we have found an even-handed way of doing it together, I’m well aware that in some households, domestic chores are not shared fairly.

So, I have done some MBA Thinking to see if there might be some insights from the field of HR or Human Resources, to guide us.

And, sure enough, there are.

My key text for these insights is, Human Resource Strategy, by the SHRM, or Society For Human Resource Management.

In a rather helpful way, the SHRM paper defines HR strategy as follows:

HR strategy means a system of human resource practices for a particular job or collection of jobs, aimed at the best employee performance possible, to meet the firm’s ultimate goals.

A few things jumped out at me in that sentence. Let’s see if they popped up for you, too.

  • Firstly, the field of HR applies a system to a particular job, or collection of jobs. This means, we might have one set of rules and guidelines for one set of chores, while an altogether different set for others.
  • Secondly, we use HR frameworks to get the best employee performance possible. For those of you with children living at home, I hope your ears pricked up just now.
  • And thirdly, we use HR to meet the firm’s ultimate goal. Do you have a firm one? I’ll come back to your goals shortly.

Let’s start with the jobs or collection of jobs that need doing in a household. There’s cooking, cleaning, provisioning, transporting, and even curating entertainment – it is a weighty discipline to be in charge of the television remote.

According to the SHRM, there are two key HR strategies you might apply: Commitment Strategies vs Control Strategies.

It’s suffice to say that if you live alone, or share your house with a life partner, it is much happier to apply Commitment Strategies.

In commitment strategies, peers of equal power and experience and divide tasks in a sane and sober manner, and you can take turns in finishing things off.

However, where there is a power and experience differential, such as when you have young children or teenagers, or you’re in a house-share situation in which you have the lease in your name, Control Strategies might be best.

Of the 5 steps outlined in the SHRM paper, I will look at the main one, today.

You need to recognise your key processes.

What are the collection of jobs that need doing without fail?

My good lady wife and I call these the 3 Cs. Creating, Curating, and Cleaning.

Creating involves cooking food, coming up with entertainments, and tending one’s seeds and seedlings until they take root.

To those of us with experience and fertile minds, these tasks are a joy.

In fact, this in my good lady wife’s preferred field of endeavour because at harvest time when I can provide her with a good handful, she never fails in whipping something up that leaves us both equally satisfied.

Curating is my preferred task.

I scour the TV guides, the radio guides, the podcast listings, the online library catalogue, and even my own diary, to make sure I provide us with a healthy and varied diet of intellectual stimulation.

While I do sometimes slip in a comedy caper, most of the time, I present our household with good brain food so that when we are in company, my good lady wife and I can be relied upon to provide enthralling social intercourse.

Cleaning, however, is the least enjoyable element of keeping one’s home in order, and this is where those of you with children or casual house mates have an advantage.

While Creating and Curating are their own rewards, the group of jobs relating to Cleaning are best handled in the content of an economic transaction so that a value can be placed on the tasks and people can be paid in money or credit, to get them done.

But how do you set a price on “Cleaning” jobs at home?

For some guidance, I turned to the International Labour Office’s publication entitled, Measuring the economic and social value of domestic work.

In a most helpful way, it quotes Razavi (2007), who argues that such domestic work at home could safely fall under the umbrella term of “care work”.  In the ILO’s Law And Practice report (2010), such domestic work includes, cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, the elderly and the disabled, and attending to domestic animals. Indeed, that’s why I feed the chooks every morning!

If we accept this definition of domestic work as CARE work, then my MBA Thinking says we need to find the current Award for Care Sector workers, and we have our benchmarks.

And, thankfully, Fair Work Australia has just published its latest Aged Care Award settings and we see that Level 1 care workers in Australia are to be paid $21.62 per hour.

Does this mean we should value chores done by our children or house mates at this rate?

Not necessarily.

If we assume you will use lockdown as your starting point for this approach to household chores, then you might decide that your subordinates will start as apprentices, and Fair Work Australia says their hourly rate is $13.02.

If we round off our HR approach being true to the Control Strategies, then we don’t just need the reward of payment, but we need a disciplinary tool to keep our workers in line.

To this end, the SHRM paper concludes with some tactics to keep your workers, especially your children, on their toes during lockdown:

Give regular feedback. Whether you set up cameras around the home or just do walk-throughs, your children and housemates will work harder, when they can see you are paying attention.’

However, I do caution you about taking this too far.

I have heard about a rather earnest HR person who was inspired by English philosopher and social theorist, Jeremy Bentham.

Bentham developed the concept of a Panopticon – a prison where the guards in the centre could watch prisoners all the time and even make prisoners THINK they’re being watched all the time.

This HR zealot ripped out all the walls in his house and replaced them with glass windows.

This is NOT what I am recommending, unless you can budget for more household chores involving cleaning windows, or unless you’re in a share house of actors or even theatre critics, who enjoy being in the public view at all times.

Another tactic of control is to recruit large pools of applicants.

This is easy in a share house. If you hear of other people who are great house sharers, invite them over to stay for a while as a sort of internship – that will keep your lazy housemates on their toes.

Of course, if you have children, this is a little more difficult, because while it might be pragmatically ideal to invite other people’s children who are good at chores to come and stay with you; it is a grey area, legally.

Instead, my MBA Thinking would suggest that you can mention to under-performing children that you are going to MAKE some new ones if they don’t pull up their socks.

It would follow that if you started measuring up their bedrooms to make way for a new nursery, your message will hit home.

And the final tactic is providing information on the company’s performance, competitors and industry.

In the case of household chores, this would mean:

  • Installing a whiteboard with progress scores
  • Naming the best householder and worst householder of the week awards
  • Sharing stories about households who are doing well, especially referencing the Joneses across the road.

My suggestion, after this lecture, is to gather your fellow householders and:

  • Set a list of weekly tasks
  • Ascribe a budget of labour for each task
  • Purchase a time clock with facial recognition and biometric fingerprint technology, so that workers – err, housemates or children – can clock on and clock off for their domestic chore responsibilities

Achiving discipline

The second of my three themes today is discipline. What is it? How does one get it?

There are many grumblings among some Australians in lockdown that they want and deserve their freedom.

However, with MBA Thinking, your freedom comes from within.

Likewise, that’s where discipline comes from, according to a new book by retired US Navy SEAL Jocko Willink.

The book is called Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual: Mk1 MOD1 and I thought I’d share his insights today.

In short, he says the enemy of getting what you want, of applying discipline, is that little voice inside you that says, DO IT TOMORROW.

And don’t we all hear that voice from time to time?

For example, our rubbish collection day is Tuesday and today is Sunday. Instead of my usual habit of putting the bins out tomorrow, I will put them out today. That’s discipline!

Jocko Willink says you can uncover discipline if you find out what drives you.

What drives Willink is the memory of his fellow soldiers who never made it back. Of course, most of us don’t have the advantage of having a trail of dead colleagues littering our pasts.

So we need to improvise.

  • If you’re a home cook, you might think of all those nights you planned to make a meal from scratch, but ended up getting takeaway.
  • Or, if you’re looking for love, you might think of all those people you saw on Tinder but for whom you swiped the wrong way.
  • Or, if you’re a movie buff, you might think of all those nights you planned to watch a deep and thoughtful movie, but instead watched another Stephen Seagal flick.

In his book, Jocko shares some important steps for gaining discipline in your life. Here are three.

  1. Make aggression your default mode. – This certainly is made easier if you stand at the entrance to a supermarket and watch how few  people actually scan in with the Track and Trace app
  2. Conquer your mornings, and you’ll conquer the competition. If there are things you must do each morning, get them over and done with quickly. I find that a hot, black coffee and a bowl of steaming oatmeal, leads to a good, brisk bowel movement, and a sense of great satisfaction.
  3. And his third tip is that your body is not adapted to digest grains properly. Ahh, I imagine that’s why my bowl of oatmeal makes such a speedy and pleasing exit.

Choosing food to lift your mood

Talking of food, I want to finish with my third theme today, that of using food to lift your mood.

For this section, I will branch outside of MBA literature and turn to Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way To Better Mental Health in Six Weeks, (2021) by Drew Ramsey MD, who, like me, is a professor, but Drew is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, a practicing psychiatrist, and a farmer.

The good doctor’s insight is that when we are unhappy, such as many people are during lockdown, we have a feeling in our gut – a gut reaction – that signals how unhappy we are.

That’s because the many neurons in your gut are constantly sending messages to your brain – for instance, letting it know that you’ve eaten enough.

However, when the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract isn’t functioning well, gut-to-brain communication also suffers.

And studies have shown that limited GI tract function leads to higher levels of stress and fear, resulting in behaviours like buying more toilet paper than it’s humanly possible to consume.

So what does the good doctor suggest?

He says we need to feed those good bugs who live in our guts with plenty of fibre and variety.

And to achieve this, there are 7 categories of food we need to eat.

The first is leafy greens.

This means kale, spinach, collards, and chard. We love them. That’s why you might recall I mentioned earlier, that my good lady wife and I love nothing more than having a good, old toss in the kitchen every day, so we can get our greens in.

The second category is Rainbow Fruits and vegetables.

Make sure you have plenty of colour variety, not just with your multi-racial approach to good HR, but in your shopping trolley.

One little trick I use when shopping, is that I take a box of Staedtler (STED-LER) colour pencils with me, and as I pick up an eggplant, I choose a pencil of that shade, and shove it into my big fruit. I do the same with tomatoes and broccoli, etc, until I’ve used up all my pencils and I have a shopping cart that looks like a porcupine on its way to Mardi Gras.

Not only does this mean I eat the rainbow, but the pencils make it easier to handle your vegetables and you need less shopping bags.

The third category is seafood.

I’m not a big fan of this food.

Although I don’t mind the fishy smell, I am fearful of getting bones stuck in my throat.

However, during this lockdown, my good lady wife is making sure I get my fill of boneless Fish Taco – and she has me quite hooked!

The fourth category is nuts and seeds.

Apparently, getting a handful of nuts every day, along with a serving of seed, really fire up the brain.

The fifth category is meat. The doctor says grass fed is best.

And in the sixth category of dairy and eggs, he says free range is best.

I wonder if the author’s farm follows these practices? I’m sure it does.

And the final category is dark chocolate.

Yes, it has its own category.

The doctor reports that a study in the National Health and Examination Survey showed that eating high amounts of Dark Chocolate  greatly reduces symptoms of depression!

And so, what do we do with this information.

Firstly, a shopping list.

Make sure you pop out today, safely, and grab one item from each category. For example, here’s mine:

  • One bunch of spinach
  • One giant eggplant
  • One serve of crabs
  • One handful of nuts
  • One nice rump
  • One cup of handmade cream
  • One 3kg block of dark chocolate

That should have you feeling good in no time.

Oh, and a recipe. Here’s the Professors’ Pick Me Up.

Place a spinach leaf, some blended yoghurt, and 500g of dark chocolate into a food whiz, and make this delicious smoothie.

All the best with the rest of lockdown.

And as our Honorary Professor Oscar Wilde once wrote:

“Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.“

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