The time we have at our fingertips is the same for everyone unless you are some divine being that has managed to find a way of creating a 30 hour day – and if this is you please contact me and share the secret. There are 24 hours in one day, 7 days in one week, 52 weeks in one year – and the majority of us spend a large proportion of this time at work.
The length of time has not and will never change, but the communications revolution of recent years has placed increasing demands on the fixed time at our fingertips. For all the benefits of the digital age, the reality is that the constant communication via phone, email, fax, skype and social media has created a dark-side to communication – that of information overload and a perceived need to instantly respond and react. Increasingly, I also believe that if not managed it can be a recipe for mental exhaustion.
I don’t know about you but the ability to find time to stop and think is becoming a much harder challenge than ever before. I often reflect on a day and realize that I have been reacting and doing a lot but not actually spending quality time thinking about the bigger picture plan and deliverables.
How much of your working day do you spend doing vs. thinking?
If you take a step back and truly assess the value you are adding to your business are you truly, as a leader, spending enough uninterrupted time synthesizing information, thinking through the steps and actions that need to be taken to deliver to the big picture goals. Are you spending enough time interpreting the multiple actions that are presented to make informed and good decisions?
Too many of us spend every business hour working through the to do list, ticking off actions. Does that list ever get any smaller? NO – the list just continues to grow.
A McKinsey report “Recovering from Information Overload” (January 2011) talked about the 3 essential qualities required of leaders today:
- Avoid multi-tasking – endless scientific studies have proved time and again that multitasking makes humans less productive, less creative and less able to make good decision
- Be self disciplined to avoid information overload – keep focused and ensure that the increasing level of connectedness does not take over every minute of every second of every day
- Set the tone of the organization – walk the talk, lead from the top and set the example of a more healthier approach to work.
I think one of the essential keys to success in this digital and communication revolution is to have the courage to create chunks of time in your day to reflect and work out the essential to do’s; those things that really will make a difference and move your business ahead.
Siimon Reynolds in his book “When they zig you zag- how to achieve health and happiness by doing the opposite to everyone else” talks about shutting the office door for at least 3 hours a day so that without interruption you can think, do your own work and increase your own productivity. He argues that “rarely is anything so urgent it needs your immediate attention”.
Rethink your day and allocate time to think and not just do. Change your daily habit / routine and allow yourself the focused time to review, to synthesise information to determine key decisions and what needs to be done to deliver to the big audacious goals of the business. What is really important and what really will count? And then, quite frankly, just do it.
The thought of being more disciplined about thinking time already makes me feel more fulfilled and empowered. And don’t we all want to remain in control and on top of things? So come on – lets be more effective in 2012 by saying ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ and putting “Thinking Time” in the winning corner.
As Henry Ford said “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few of us engage in it”.