Management & Operations

Too busy to think?

Posted on April 1, 2005 by Steve Hirano, Editor/Associate Publisher

God, it’s hectic at work today. Like yesterday. And the day before, which is sad since that was a Sunday. If only we could get out from under the day-to-day obligations, we could catch a glimpse of the highway beyond the unidentifiable insects smeared on our waterspotted windshields. Adding to our grind, we’ve got our goals and objectives for the coming year and our organization’s “strategic five-year plan.” (Is there any other kind?) Unless we’ve got an escape plan buried in our desks or triple-hidden in a computer folder somewhere, we’ve got to attend to these eventualities. Does this sound familiar? Are you one of the people I’m describing here? I suspect many of you are, because you’re in the people-moving business, which doesn’t slow down for anyone. Looking ahead has become a luxury reserved for those who are — how do I put this gently — unemployed. When you’re fighting the good fight, or at least faking the good fight, you’ve got to be busy even when you’re too busy to be busy. Are you busier than ever?
It’s called Life in the 21st Century. Our plates our awash with an astronomical gastronomical overload of duties, responsibilities and obligations. Only so much can be delegated. Only so much can be ignored. Only so much can be postponed. We live with the understanding that we can never do enough. Worse, we’re flooded with information, more than we can possibly assimilate. We can now attend industry Webinars with colleagues across the country while sitting at our desks answering e-mail, vetting reports and setting up flight plans to the next industry meeting (which really is across the country). What do we do with all of this information? If you’re like me, you jot down a few notes on a sheet of paper and place it in a manila folder called “Futures.” The only problem is that this Futures folder never gets integrated into what my meditational, yoga-practicing friends call the “Here and Now.” Eventually, having ignored this growing sheaf of notes for several months, I empty the Futures folder into my cylindrical “No Longer Relevant” file. Slowing down is not an option. Public transportation is designed to move large numbers of people rapidly. We can’t rest or hide or throw up our hands in surrender. Nor do we want to. Whether you’re involved in the public or private side of the business, you’re invested in the successful completion of your task. To fail is to let these large numbers of people, including yourself and your staff, down. Treat yourself to think time
Now, having whined about Life in the 21st Century, I’d like to offer a suggestion. It’s called Think Week and, no, it’s not my idea. I’ve cribbed it from Bill Gates, who, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, twice yearly spends a week in seclusion to ponder the future of technology and how Microsoft will fit into that future. During this week Gates reads dozens of papers submitted by Microsoft employees. Some address the company’s vision, while others are more practical in nature. He sometimes reads more than 100 papers during his retreat. At the end of Think Week, Gates has sent out a stream of e-mail to the authors, spawning a host of follow-up meetings and shifts in company strategy and direction. How many of you could profit from Think Week? Or Think Half-Week? Or Think Day? How about soliciting ideas from the entire organization and reviewing them one by one? It won’t lighten your workload — in fact, it might make it heavier — but it could lead to some positive changes and better staff. It might even make you forget that you’ve got so much to do and so little time to do it. Don’t count on it, though.

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