I was in the coffee bar at IESE Business school some weeks ago. I overheard the conversation: “I’ll join the public speaking club in the 2nd year, it will be less crazy and I will have more time”.
Seth Godin tells us that every 18 months for the last decade, the world has doubled the data it pushes to you. Twice as much email, twice as many friend requests, twice as many sites to check, twice as many devices. When does your mind lose the ability to keep up? Then what happens? Is it already happening?
I believe that the feeling of being “overwhelmed” is not really due to the external circumstances, but our own reaction to those circumstances. Scott Belsky, the founder of Behance (a set of productivity tools for creatives) has a couple of ideas that I think can make a difference in an overwhelming world.
- Create windows of non-stimulation – Create periods where your put a stop to the flow of incoming emails, calls, conversations, noise, TV. The author of Good to Great, Jim Collins does not allow any electronic device in the same room as him before midday. Turn off mobiles, computers and hear your own thoughts once or twice a week.
- Divide actionable from non-actionable items. Keep separate ideas and actions in your notebook (you do have a notebook). Each action step should start with a verb “call A”, “buy a gift for B”, “follow up contract with C”.
- Bias to action. In the absence of conviction or clarity, do something. Don’t wait. I think all self help books ever written can be summarized as follows:
- Write your goals down.
- Start at number 1.
- Do it now.
Step three is the big diferentiator.
Another interesting note on Jim Collins – he has three big life goals defined for himself. He always carries 3 stopwatches. When he is working on one of the 3 important goals, he sets the stopwatch in motion. When he stops, he stops the watch. He tracks daily, weekly and monthly how he is doing at dedicating time to what is important for him (PS email responding is not one of his goals). A nice quote from Jim: “Don’t confuse activity with productivity.”
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