As 2008 nears, I’m resolved to make room for a more balanced life, less cluttered with frenzy and meaningless busyness. Yoga helps, but it’s time to invest in some mental and lifestyle “housekeeping” as well. As a first step toward de-cluttering, I’ve decided to consult some expert coaches.
I find myself drawn to two books we purchased this fall, Sarah Susanka’s The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters, and David Allen’s classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Although both books look quite interesting, Susanka’s approach appears more holistic, probably not so surprising, when you consider her profession as an architect.
Are We Really More Productive?
With hundreds of in-bound email and other electronic communications every day, it’s hard to believe that our working lives are better than they used to be. As Susanka writes in The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters,
With all the instant messaging, e‑mailing, and cell-phoning going on, often simultaneously, there’s not nearly enough thought or discernment involved in any of it. We’re engaged in a race against time, but the race itself is entirely fabricated and of our own making. And we’re rarely present in our interactions at all.
When was the last business meeting (other than a one-on-one in a coffee shop) in which meeting attendees weren’t checking email (even if surreptitiously)?
One good thing about web-based conferences: at least you can’t see when people’s attention has drifted off to their email (even if you can hear their keyboards clacking away)… Needless to say, group interactions suffer as a result when everyone’s attention is anywhere but the meeting. I wonder how much productivity is actually lost as a result of multi-tasking while in meetings?
Quantity Does Not Equal Quality
Quality suffers too. My husband, who works for an enormous Fortune 50 company, complains that the incessant emails have become so overwhelming that people have little time to read or think about what’s in their in-box. He grumbles that ill-considered responses to incoming messages only add to the confusion and rework. People fire off half-ass responses because they don’t take time to think through the implications of what they’re reading. He’s seen multiple situation when decisions are made and unmade and remade over the course of several months as a result of this multi-tasking malaise.
To make matters worse, many people check their email via Blackberries or BlackJack phones with tiny screens — ill-suited to longer messages required for dealing with complex situations. Certain situations just require more than a few sentences to set out the arguments or rationalize the recommendation — regardless of the device being used to check email.
What’s the Solution?
I certainly don’t have an answer on how to deal with the electronic frenzy that’s overtaking our lives, but I’m looking forward to exploring options in 2008. In the meantime I’ve got some great books to read and ponder — and some exercises to try.
And if you’ve found a solution that works well for you, please share it!