by Tony Richards
In today’s vernacular, we now have a word that encompasses children between the ages of 10 and 12. After you pass 9, and become 10 until your 13th birthday, you are now called a “tween” or “tween-ager”. As far as I can tell, from 13 until 20, you are still referred to as the old-fashioned term I grew up with, a “teen-ager”. For most of us, sometime after we became tweens, and until the age of 16, we waited with great anticipation, because at 16, we were then able to apply for and receive, upon passing testing, first a permit, which allowed us to operate a motor vehicle with a licensed driver, and then an official driving license, which allowed us to operate a motorized vehicle alone. Ah….the first taste of freedom for us in our newly established, semi-adult world.
Our next benchmark was typically 18, graduating high school, choosing an institution of higher learning in which we further enhanced our freedom, and then the long-awaited and much anticipated 21, and the enhanced rewards only our 21st birthday could bring to us. At the point in which we first anticipated gaining the driver’s license, through the highly desired, 21, it seemed that time was crawling and would never get here. For the similar feeling and time crawl simulation in our very young years, see Christmas. All of this waiting and longing had to do with freedom and time was our enemy to getting to these dates which seemed to bring so much liberty.
These days, for leaders, it seems almost the reverse. We have so many technology utilities and devices at our fingertips, that we have more freedom than ever before, what we don’t seem to have is time. The world around us is speeding out of control, and none of our many cool gadgets seem to help with slowing things down. We have tons of things to do and seemingly less time in the day to be truly productive. Being more productive means we get more done, and it shouldn’t require high-octane coffee to do so. The situation seems to be this; we have just as much time as we have always had, the days are the same length as they were to our driver’s license. The difference may be we had a lot more energy then than we do now. How do we re-energize ourselves in this strange world we function in that is moving 24/7?
After all, we are connected 24/7, we are full-up with information 24/7, we are addicted to 24/7!
We must understand the challenges we face in any environment if we are to truly be leaders, change catalysts in any environment. You may think some of these are too much of a change for you, but I offer them as suggestions to you regardless.
Strategy #1: 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? You are learning Facebook and they’ve just become the mayor of so-and-so on Foursquare. You are saying, “What’s Foursquare”? Lately, I’ve been getting a ton of invitations to “Branch Out”. I don’t accept them. Why not? I have Linked In. Why do I need Branch Out? Point being, find things that work for you and refuse the temptation to try to maintain all of it or keep up with all of it.
Strategy #2: 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, fill in your favorites. About two years ago, I turned off my e-mail auto checker, I got tired of that little window coming up in lower right corner distracting me when I was concentrating on a project. Now, I check it 3 or 4 times a day manually and answer expendiently. 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.
Strategy #3: Chill
Relax a little bit. When you are unplugged, be cool with that and get some work done. I promise you will feel more energized by getting real work done than by being plugged in to all your information sources and gadgets.
Strategy #4 Get clarity on your expectations
How much time do you want or need to be an information junkie? Make decisions on what your expect from yourself as far as information goes and then as afar as productivity goes. I’m not saying you don’t need to be informed, what I am saying is you need to constantly be aware of how much balance to need to achieve to maintain a high energy level as a leader.
You may be wired-in and love it, but you can’t know everything. After all, isn’t that what meeting interesting people is all about. Meeting someone for coffee, dinner or lunch to soak up what another person knows which is interesting. It’s a great distraction from…well…everything else that is fighting for your focus and attention.