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 Electronic Beasts

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.

ADD Nation?

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 multitasking environment.

ADT sufferers have an environmentally induced attention deficit, he asserts—a 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.

Adrenaline Rush

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 symptom—not 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 fulfillment—and 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 personal—and the company's—detriment.

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).

In General

    1. Get adequate sleep.

    2. Watch what you eat. Avoid simple, sugary carbohydrates. Moderate your intake of alcohol. Add protein. Stick to complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains, fruit).

    3. Exercise at least 30 minutes every other day.

    4. Take a daily multivitamin and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
At Work
    1. Do all you can to create a trusting, connected work environment.

    2. Have a friendly, face-to-face talk with a person you like every four to six hours.

    3. Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.

    4. Keep a section of your workspace or desk clear at all times.

    5. Each day, reserve some "think time" that's free from appointments, email and phone calls.

    6. Set aside email until you've completed at least one or two more important tasks.

    7. Before you leave work each day, create a list of three to five items you will attend to the next day.

    8. Try to act on, file or toss every document you touch. Don't let papers accumulate.

    9. 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.

    10. Do whatever it takes to work in a more focused way. Add background music, take short breaks or take a walk—whatever works best for you.

    11. Ask a colleague or assistant to help you stop talking on the telephone, emailing or working too late. Recognize and correct your nonproductive habits.
When You Feel Overwhelmed
    1. Slow down.

    2. 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.

    3. Move around: Go up and down a flight of stairs, or walk briskly.

    4. Ask for help, delegate a task, or brainstorm with a colleague. In short, do not worry alone.
Check in with your coach.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Coach Jerry


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Jerry Pinney

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. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

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