Many of my coaching clients have concerns about the
pace of life, about ways to slow down and smell the
roses, about creating fun and having time to frolic.
Let me share some thoughts with you on ways to create
the right rhythm and protect some time for you.
Information Overload: Taming the
Frantic, forgetful, fragmented and flummoxed.
Does this describe you or someone you work with? If so,
you're not alone. Many smart leaders are being swept away
by today's frenetic, globalized, technology-driven lifestyle.
We have plunged into a mad rush of activity, aided by high-speed
Internet, cell phones, instant messaging, BlackBerries and
email 24/7. We work longer hours, with escalating demands.
Modern work life, for all of its timesaving conveniences,
is sapping our creativity, humanity, joy and, occasionally,
our sense of humor.
Since the mid-1990s, people have increasingly complained
of being chronically inattentive, disorganized and overbooked.
Most complaints originate from individuals who do not have
clinical diagnoses of attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Instead, they suffer from what ADD expert Dr. Edward M.
Hallowell calls "severe cases of modern life"a
condition he dubs Attention Deficit Traits (ADT). It's an
epidemic in many corporate cultures that promote a fast
ADT sufferers have an environmentally induced attention
deficit, he assertsa phenomenon he describes as the
"F-state": frantic, frenzied, forgetful, flummoxed,
frustrated and fragmented.
The faster we go, the more we take on. The more we take
on, the more there is to do. Laborsaving devices create
more labor. By shortening the time and energy required to
complete any one task, these devices free us to do more.
For many people, working in the F-state is fun. Using email,
BlackBerries and other devices provides constant stimulation.
Some people enjoy the adrenaline surge: Doing everything
faster feels exciting.
But living life faster and coveting more data won't increase
your sense of fulfillment. While these behaviors may temporarily
charge your emotional battery, they won't deepen your connections
to what really matters.
Organizational Deficit Disorder
One side effect of a frenzied pace is disorganization. We
cannot keep up with all of the data and piles of paper we
accumulate to stay informed. We become buried in clutter.
Overloaded leaders resort to quick decisions that bring
only short-term relief.
Disorganization is a symptomnot the core problem.
Getting organized may alleviate surface pain, but it doesn't
address the root cause. Sure, we can all benefit from being
more organized and getting a handle on time management,
but the issues run deeper than simply clearing off our desk.
Human Deficit Disorder
Too much electronic time, coupled with a dearth of human
moments, leads to an as-yet-unnamed medical condition. Symptoms
include loss of personal vitality, an inability to converse,
a craving for a computer screen when we're separated from
one and low-grade depression.
Email communication is a poor substitute for authentic human
interaction. We send an email because a phone conversation
requires too much time, energy and complexity. But positive
human-to-human contact reduces blood levels of the stress
hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.
While we may, indeed, produce more in less time, we're faced
with a gnawing feeling of emptiness and lack of fulfillmentand
what companies fail to realize is that human connections
are critical to peak performance.
What Leaders Can Do
All too often, companies cause Attention Deficit Traits
in their work groups by demanding fast, rather than deep,
thinking. Employees are encouraged to work on multiple overlapping
projects, resulting in second-rate thinking.
Even worse, companies reward those who say yes to overload
and punish those who choose to focus by saying no. They're
overly infatuated with fast-acting individuals who multitask
and work long hours, often to their personaland the
Firms that ignore ADT symptoms in their employees will suffer
its ill effects: People underachieve, create clutter, cut
corners, make careless mistakes and squander their brainpower.
As demands continue to mount, a toxic, high-pressure culture
produces high illness and turnover rates.
Two important prerequisites for creating solutions are a
positive emotional environment and finding the right rhythm.
Dr. Hallowell includes a list of suggestions to control
Attention Deficit Traits in his article, "Overloaded
Circuits: Why Smart People Under perform" (Harvard Business
Review, January 2005).
- Get adequate sleep.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid simple, sugary carbohydrates.
Moderate your intake of alcohol. Add protein. Stick
to complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains,
- Exercise at least 30 minutes every other day.
- Take a daily multivitamin and an omega-3 fatty acid
When You Feel Overwhelmed
- Do all you can to create a trusting, connected work
- Have a friendly, face-to-face talk with a person
you like every four to six hours.
- Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Keep a section of your workspace or desk clear at
- Each day, reserve some "think time" that's
free from appointments, email and phone calls.
- Set aside email until you've completed at least one
or two more important tasks.
- Before you leave work each day, create a list of three
to five items you will attend to the next day.
- Try to act on, file or toss every document you touch.
Don't let papers accumulate.
- Pay attention to the times of day when you're at your
best. Do your most important work then, and save the
rote work for periods when you're less focused or energized.
- Do whatever it takes to work in a more focused way.
Add background music, take short breaks or take a walkwhatever
works best for you.
- Ask a colleague or assistant to help you stop talking
on the telephone, emailing or working too late. Recognize
and correct your nonproductive habits.
Check in with your coach.
- Slow down.
- Complete an easy rote task: Reset your watch, write
a note about a neutral topic, read a few dictionary
definitions, or make a dent in a crossword puzzle.
- Move around: Go up and down a flight of stairs, or
- Ask for help, delegate a task, or brainstorm with
a colleague. In short, do not worry alone.
A coach can help you focus. A coach
can help you prioritize. A coach can help you become what
YOU want to become. If you have a coach, be sure your coaching
sessions are focused on the most important things. If you
would like to have a coach, what's standing in your way?
Thanks for your time. Contact me if I can be of any help.
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For the last twenty-two
years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm.
Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal
coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality
of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits.
He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative
Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has
over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses
a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic
planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications,
Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business
development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores
followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers
and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry
has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers
Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International
and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.
Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit
boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest
Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive
Service Corps of Chicago. Jerrys ESC assignments have included
coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various
Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning
Pinney & Associates
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