Are you overwhelmed with the "tyranny" of emails, newsletters, Facebook and LinkedIn updates, tweets, and phone messages coming at you by the hour? Do you have a feeling of guilt that somehow you are accountable for responding to all of them, even though you didn’t ask for most of them in the first place? Is the e-stack in your inbox getting deeper and deeper? Do you feel like a slave to your Blackberry or iPhone? Are you spending longer hours responding and giving yourself less quiet time? Virtually everyone we work with is concerned about this issue, not only for themselves but also for those who work with and for them. If everyone is sending and responding to the stuff shoved at them all day, when is there time to think and be proactive and who is doing the work?
When we engage clients in conversations for solutions around this issue we hear several categories of reasons why they are complaining yet not able to get a handle on this:
1) Fear & defensiveness. There is a message in the stack that has a real zinger in it and they can’t take the risk of missing it. Key people will judge them harshly as being non-responsive or irresponsible.
2) Beliefs & judgments. "Good people" answer all their emails and messages. If they were just more organized they would have time to be successful at responding to everything.
3) Addiction. They are hooked on Facebook, Twitter and the like.
4) Absence of clarity. Vision, goals and priorities are subsumed by the sheer onslaught of “incoming.” “What I started out to get done when I headed for the office was lost within a half-hour after I got there.”
To me, (and I struggle mightily with this as well), the antidote is:
1) Remind myself that I did not ask for much of the incoming and never promised to answer it.
2) Refocus on my strategic priorities regularly throughout the day and ask if what I’m doing is forwarding any of them.
3) Choose to let the email and networking site updating slide and just sit with the discomfort.
4) Keep looking for practical processes that support my intention to be the most productive I can be while also being reasonably responsive.
5) Insist on setting out quiet times and free times to think, relax, and restore, even if I can only fit in a 15 minute break at times.
6) Insure I get at least my minimum exercise and yoga practice in.
How do you handled the onslaught of incoming? What practices and processes are you employing to keep yourself sane, productive, and on purpose?