The world is too big for us…There is too much dying, too many crimes, casualties, violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind the race in spite of yourself. It is an excrescent strain to keep pace and we still lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political worlds witness new scenes so rapidly that you are out of breath trying to keep up with them. Everything is high pressure; Human nature just cannot endure much more. From The Atlantic Monthly (1837)
Feeling a little out of control? Has the giant in-box of your work and personal lives become your master? Apparently, this overwhelming feeling is not new. Few of us can escape a day that is chocked full of input, rapid change, and infinite options. According to efficiency expert and best-selling author David Allen, in the last three days you have probably received more change-producing, project-creating, and priority-shifting information than your parents would have received in 3 months. Meditate on that!
We are living in a near-constant state of receiving, interpreting, evaluating, deciding, and reacting to the stuff entering our lives. Stuff includes everything from e-mail, voice mail, snail mail, meeting notes, our never-ending ever-loving to do lists, and those dreadful piles that form and multiply in our workplaces and homes. And let's not forget the constant introduction of new technology that promises to improve our quality of life by increasing our efficiency. The myriad ways we have of communicating— e-mailing, texting, twittering, tweeting, the ever-present cell phone— lead to the expectation that we will respond immediately.
It's no wonder that people increasingly experience greater amounts of stress, a sense of losing control, and an inability to focus. This is a constant theme when coaching high-performing professionals. How do you focus them and how do you focus their organizations? A simple question like, "how was your weekend," can often draw a blank look and a "what week-end," followed by, "oh, I just wanted to catch up."
Ah, the myth of catching up. Have you ever heard anyone claim to actually be caught up? It happens so rarely that I wonder if there is not some huge, unspoken risk associated with being caught up.
What is the answer? It is, indeed, a conundrum. As coaches, we are better at asking questions. We believe that any answers we may offer to this conundrum would only work for us. Unless we take time to question the way things are around this issue, we will continue to pay the price of unrelenting demands for our attention.
We are not calling for the overthrow of technology. We love technology! We are, however, asking questions such as:
- Are you using technology, or are you being used by it?
- Imagine what it would be like to practice Sabbath each week, spend a day away from all the stuff.
- Will becoming even more efficient and cramming more into each minute, each hour, and each day be worth it? How much is enough?
- What is your plan for seriously improving the quality of your life and not just the quantity of stuff in your life.