This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
Because of the technology at our fingertips these days, leaders have more freedom than ever before. What we don’t seem to have is time. The world around us feels like it’s speeding out of control, and our many cool gadgets don’t help slow things down. And because we’re able to work more than ever before, it can seem like we’re being less productive. Having a quality output shouldn’t require high-octane coffee.
Here’s the situation: We have just as much time as we have always had. The days are the same length. For some leaders, the difference is the energy-sucking technology. How do we re-energize ourselves in this strange world that’s moving 24/7? After all, we are connected 24/7, we are full of information 24/7, we are addicted to 24/7!
To be a leader and a change catalyst, you must be able to adapt to challenges in any environment. For that, you need energy. For that, you need to rest from all your hyper-speed work. You may think some of these are too much of a change for you, but I offer them as suggestions to you regardless.
Get comfortable with tools that work for you. If you are typically an early adapter, you may be trying to utilize everything in the technology, information, or social media world. You know these people, right? Just when you were learning Facebook, they became the mayor of so-and-so on Foursquare. You said, “What’s Foursquare?”
Lately, I’ve been getting a ton of invitations to Branchout. I don’t accept them. I have LinkedIn, so why do I need Branchout? Point being: find things that work for you and refuse the temptation to try to keep up with everything.
Tune-out day. Oh no, he’s not going to suggest it, is he? Yes, I am. You need days where you shut it off. Shut of the cell phone, don’t check e-mail, stay off Twitter, and fill in your favorites. About five years ago, I turned off my e-mail auto checker. I got tired of that little window coming up in the lower right corner, distracting me when I was concentrating on a project. Now, I check my email purposefully three or four times a day and answer expediently. If you can’t bring yourself to do it for a whole day, do an afternoon or evening, but pick at least one period of time each week.
Chill. Relax a little bit by yourself or work on a project uninterrupted. When you’re unplugged, be cool with that and get some work done. I promise you’ll feel more energized by getting real work done than by being plugged in to all your information sources and gadgets.
Get clarity on your expectations. How much time do you want or need to be an information junkie? Make decisions on what you expect from yourself as far as information and productivity go. I’m not saying you don’t need to be informed; I’m saying you need to constantly be aware of how much balance you need to maintain a high energy level as a leader.
Remove your triggers. If you have events or instances that trigger your technology fix, identify and remove them. You might have a habit of checking your email at traffic lights. Worse yet, you may fiddle with your phone while you’re waiting for dinner and your loved one is sitting across from you trying to wait patiently. Try leaving your phone in a place you can’t get to while driving. If you go out to lunch or dinner with someone, leave your phone in the car. Your relationships will improve and you’ll find relief.
You may be wired-in and love it, but you can’t know everything at every moment. After all, isn’t that what meeting interesting people is for? Meeting someone for coffee, dinner, or lunch to soak up what interesting things they know? It’s a great distraction from everything else that’s fighting for your focus and attention.
Tony Richards is an organizational and executive development expert and CEO of Clear Vision Development Group, a leadership and strategy firm in Columbia, Missouri. He is one of Inc. magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers and thinkers. His firm’s website is www.clearvisiondevelopment.com. Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.