Many of you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s famous observation that we’re “so busy sawing we don’t have time to sharpen the saw.” We’ve all been there. Done that. We know it’s not a good way to be. But many of you have told us lately that you feel you’re spending way too much time at the saw mill lately. Guess the Dog Days of Summer got cancelled this year.
What to do? If you’re expecting us to recommend deep breathing, long walks on the beach and some yoga or meditation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Most of you are Type A, if not Type A-plus! You need something more concrete, more tactical!That said, we’re not knocking deep breathing, long walks, yoga and meditation. All can be helpful. But what most of you need is tough self-love, not navel gazing. You need to unplug from the grid and carve out some time to think. Really think without distractions. Bring a pencil and a yellow legal pad if you like, but nothing more high tech than that.
Personally, I take a 24-hour break from all technology every weekend. Usually from mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday. Unless it’s a life threatening text or cell phone call, I’m just not going to address it during my 24-hour “quiet period.” Try it for yourself some weekend. The world won’t come to an end and see if you don’t come back Sunday evening a little more energized than you normally are.Kate Murphy had a great piece in today’s New York Times that talked about why people who complain about being “super busy,” “crazy busy” or “insanely busy” never take advantage of a rare moment for “reflective thought” when they get it. Stuck in traffic or a long grocery line? What do we do? Out comes the mobile device. Sound familiar? As Murphy observed, the journal Science published a study that showed how far people will go to avoid introspection.
Turns out many of us don’t like introspection. Or we’re afraid of our own thoughts. Or we’re afraid that we’ll just dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. But, according to Silicon Valley psychologist, Stephanie Brown, “suppressing negative feelings just gives them more power.” And you can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to let go of them. Brown is the author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster.”
While we agree with the experts about the importance of self-reflection, it doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on fixing what’s wrong. You can also focus on potential good things. Try this: Substitute the words “opportunity” or “innovation” for the word “problem” during your next self-reflective time. See what happens. Just as many people are afraid to face their fears head on, you’d be surprised how many people are afraid to bring their BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to light. Don’t be afraid to see how good you and your team can be.
Stay focused this week, even if many around you seem like they’ve checked out for the summer. Doing so will pay big dividends come September.