- the quality or condition of being busy.
- lively but meaningless activity.
We’ll do most anything to stay busy.
I’m guilty. Are you? Do you check your messages on your phone while you’re sitting in your car at the stoplight? When’s the last time you listened to some good music in your car, instead of getting that one more “catch-up” conversation done? Do you take your phone with you to the gym, to dinner with friends, to a sporting event? Do you check your Facebook app when you get a few extra minutes? Twitter? Do you feel that constant need to be connected? I most often do.
Does this feel like addiction to you? It does to me!
And how about your office or workspace? I run two different email apps – one personal, one business. I get news alerts from Google news because I asked for them. And I get Facebook messages, LinkedIN messages, and Twitter alerts. On my desktop. Oh, and on my tablet, and on my phone too. And speaking of phone, I get phone calls, voice messages, and texts. And KIK messages, and alerts from my app, and….and….and.
Busyness really IS addictive, isn’t it? It feels SO GOOD to be busy. We feel like we’re making progress, putting our hours to good use, pushing things forward.
But are we really?
Here’s how silly we look.
- Imagine your postman delivering your mail one item at a time.
- You see him drop it off, and you run to the box to retrieve it.
- You come back in your home, open it, and it’s an invoice.
- You sit down at your computer, make the payment online or write the check, and send it immediately.
- He drops off a new item.
- You run to the box to see what it is and retrieve it.
- You come back into your home, open it, and it’s a letter.
- You sit down, write your reply, and drop it in the outgoing mail.
- You check the box, and there’s another envelope! Oh, goody! Something else to do!
You get the point. You’ve only reacted to incoming messages, and it’s taken all your time.
Here’s something else to think about.
Seth Godin recently wrote a post called, “Without a keyboard”. Here it is:
“When the masses only connect to the net without a keyboard, who will be left to change the world?
It is possible but unlikely that someone will write a great novel on a tablet. You can’t create the spreadsheet that changes an industry on a smart phone. And professional programmers don’t sit down to do their programming with a swipe.
Many people are quietly giving away one of the most powerful tools ever created—the ability to craft and spread revolutionary ideas. Coding, writing, persuading, calculating—they still matter.
Yes, of course the media that’s being created on the spot, the live, the intuitive, this matters. But that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately need people like you to dig in and type.
The trendy thing to do is say that whatever technology and the masses want must be a good thing. But sometimes, what technology wants isn’t what’s going to change our lives for the better.
The public square is more public than ever, but minds are rarely changed in 140 character bursts and by selfies.”
So let me ask you this:
What are YOU doing to change the world in your own way? How are YOU giving away “one of the most powerful tools ever created—the ability to craft and spread revolutionary ideas”? What about YOUR agenda, YOUR ideas, YOUR contributions?
Fact of the matter is we spend most of our time reacting because we are bombarded by messages constantly. And when we get a few extra minutes, we even seek them out! Maybe it’s because we think we can get ahead. Maybe it’s because we’re addicted. Stimulus, response.
Don’t confuse activity with effectiveness!
So here’s what I do to combat this as often as I can remind myself. And I’m not perfect at it, by any means!
- Have a written plan for my business day on my calendar. Some like to do this the night before.
- Block off what I think are appropriate amounts of focused time for these activities.
- Discipline myself to turn off all message notifications during these times. Phone, email, tablet – everything!
- When I hit a tough spot in my work, I do NOT go looking for incoming messages as an easy distraction. I push through it.
- When I DO check for messages, I try to THINK before I REACT.
- Would a phone call be better than an email?
- Do I have all the information I need to respond well?
- Do I need to respond to this now or can I calendar it for a later time or date?
- Could someone else in my organization answer this for me and communicate directly to the sender?
- When I go to dinner, to a meeting, to the gym, to a movie, or any other event, I’ll either leave my phone in the car, or turn all the alerts off so I can “be present”.
- I cut myself some slack when I’m not perfect at steps 1 – 6.
Managing your inbound message traffic is an ever-changing game and struggle for effectiveness. But the world needs your contribution too. It needs to you to “craft and spread revolutionary ideas”, as Seth wrote.
How do YOU handle this dilemma? How do YOU make sure you have time to be effective and make progress? What other tactics do YOU use?
I can’t wait to hear.
Make it a great day!