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Posts Tagged ‘multi-tasking’

I have a question: are we so involved in the minutia of our lives and others’ lives through the massive amounts of updating we’re doing on social media sites, that we’re losing sight of the big picture?  Do we even have the ability to stand back and look at the big picture anymore?  Isn’t there a massive disconnect going on here?

I ask because I’ve been privileged to spend the last 20 months serving on the national board for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and one of our favorite sayings as board members is “Don’t get down into the weeds.”  By that, we mean our role is to provide vision and leadership for the larger picture of the organization; we’re to be some of the thought leaders our profession needs.  Being on the board definitely takes  a commitment of time; but the real commitment is that of being willing and able to think through the issues and problems set before us.  What does this decision or this wording mean to our members?  What are the consequences if we do this?  What are the consequences if we don’t?  Who will be affected, and how?  What does this mean for the future of the organization?  How do we communicate this issue to our members?

Then I come home from New York – or from whatever city we’re in – and suddenly I’m immersed into details of lives and careers, into multiple conversations, and into the need to update my own information as I “join the conversation” too, and there are times when I, as with most people I know. feel overwhelmed with the need to have my voice count, to be able to contribute.

Then I have to step back and ask, “At what price?  When do I carve out time for more contemplative thinking?  When do I carve out time for genuine strategic analysis and for stepping back and seeing an issue, a client, or a cause through a much larger framework?”

I’m of the Baby Boom generation, so I like to think I still know how to do this, even though my time seems filled up these days. But the younger generations – the Xs, Ys, and the Millenianals – are immersed in this “talk all the time in multiple venues” mode.  A report that came out today said that when these folks are multi-tasking, they’re really not doing any one thing that well, because they have trouble managing their time and sorting out their priorities; and it takes them a long time to change tasks.  It’s no wonder.  How do we emphasize the need for quiet thought?  How do we help them learn how to prioritize?  How do we teach them time management under these circumstances?

Sounds likewe need to bring back the corporate retreat but on a number of different levels; and that we should demand that people be unplugged. No cell phone, no BlackBerry, no laptops, no ipods, etc. etc.  My kids are going to laugh when they read this, because I’m the worst BlackBerry addict they know.  But I am perfectly capable of walking for long hours in the woods or on the beach, in blissful solitude and quiet; and it’s amazing how, when I do, all the chattering inside my head quiets down and certain things float to the top.  Those things which surface often surface with suggested solutions, too. 

Contemplative thought is good for a lot more than problem solving, though.  It’s also great for those of us working in creative professions.  If you need the great tag line for a business; the best ad, a great radio or TV commerical, or something witty to say online – then get up and walk away from your desk and out of the building if need be.  Let your brain go into other areas.  You’ve already programmed it for the  task at hand; now let your subconscous work for you. It will.

A lot of people know this principle, and understand it’s why great ideas can come in the shower, in your sleep, on a walk – your brain has been working for you the whole time.  

But if you’re always plugged in; if, even when you wake briefly in the middle if the night, your BlackBerry is blinking next to you, and so is your clock radio, then you’re not really getting a break.  Your brain isn’t being allowed to relax into its best, most creative, most strategic state.

And if this is all you know, and you’ve never learned to manage your time or set your priorities – you’re going to have nothing but trouble going to school or focusing on the job.  Maybe we need to create two new professional positions – one for the person who knows how to “get down into the weeds” and handle it; and the other for the person who’s going to arrange the quiet, contemplative retreat for everyone else!

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