Blackberries and Wifi and blogs (oh my!). And your list likely goes on – email, IM’s, forwarding your phone number, wireless everything and 24 hour news channels. While it might be trite, we truly live in a 24/7 world.
Many of us didn’t grow up in a world quite like it is now – with the plethora of options for being connected, getting information and communicating. It wasn’t that many years ago when email and cell phones were new. Now a cell phone that connects to your email is old news!
The challenges of a 24/7 world are many, but as a leader there are four that are especially important to consider – both as an individual and in your role as a leader.
We have the option of always being connected.
We are awash in information.
We have too many sources of information to choose from.
Many people are increasingly addicted to all of it.
One crucial step to thriving in any situation is to identify and understand the challenges you face, and then identify ways to overcome, benefit from or eliminate those challenges. The ideas that follow are meant to help you do all three of these things.
Your Seven Ideas
Remember that these ideas about thriving, not merely surviving. This may mean that one or more of them is a bit more radical than you have considered or even think prudent. While you have to use your own judgment, I encourage you to do more than consider these ideas – but actually try them!
Manage your expectations of yourself. How much time do you want/need/have to be a connected info-holic? (Please note that these are three different questions – ask yourself all of them). Consider your answers carefully, and then make choices about your own expectations of yourself in an informed way.
Manage your expectations of others. As a leader you may choose to be connected and/or be on your computer at all times of the day or night. Unless you have a conversation with your team, they likely will begin to model your behavior. Maybe you choose to do email or send links to ideas you find at an odd hour, that’s fine, but you need to explicitly tell others what your expectations are for them. Let them know that “just because I’m online at 5 am doesn’t mean you need to be” or whatever is appropriate in your situation.
Turn off Tuesday afternoons. Face-to-face communication and the phone are amazing communication tools, and sometimes you will get more creative work done if the TV or web browser or email inbox is closed for awhile. Whether you pick Tuesday afternoons, Friday mornings, or whatever, consider a time during the work week when you disconnect from your toys and tools – and if you are a leader to have others do it as well. Personal experience and a variety of organizational experiments show that productivity may go up dramatically during these times.
Find information sources and tools that work for you. Focus primarily on the tools that work for you. Use them appropriately and focus your attention on them.
Turn off at night. At least one night a week (preferably more often) turn off the cell phone and don’t open the computer. If you find yourself lost without the computer open, you need this advice the most. If you really want to be reading and/or learning, open a book. Encourage your team to do this too – especially if you find yourself getting messages from them at all hours of the night.
Chill out and think. This idea addresses all four challenges mentioned above. If you remember what it was like before Web 2.0, interactive cell phones and more, you know that you could still get real work done. If you don’t remember or weren’t alive yet, trust me, you can get real work done. This idea is to just relax a little bit. When you are disconnected and unplugged be good with that. You don’t have to have your Bluetooth headset on during dinner, and you don’t have to take (or make) a phone call while in a public (or private) restroom. Relax a little. Use your disconnected time to think, rather than react to your technology.
You can’t do everything (so don’t try). Even if you are really wired to technology, and even if you love it, know that you can’t know everything about everything, because everything is so much bigger than it used to be. There will always be one more video site, cell phone option, all news blog or website. Be OK with that and refer back to idea #4.
A final note. A smart friend of mine called as I was writing this article and reminded me that some leaders are on the other end of this spectrum – either anti-technology or at least not challenged by these issues. If this is you, you need to recognize that many of your team could use the ideas above. And maybe you need to be a little more open minded to learn some of the benefits they are gaining in this 24/7 connected world – without falling into the their traps.
Potential Pointer: The communication and information options that are available to you in our 24/7 world are amazing! Always remember those options are tools designed to serve your needs, not make you a slave to them.
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