153. That’s the number of work emails I received yesterday. And that doesn’t even account for the 45 emails that I had to write and send (nor does it factor in my personal email accounts). Pair that with 5 hours of conference calls and an end-of-day deadline and you have a pretty packed day. Then add in Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, news, TV, phone calls and staying up to date on blogs and articles (like this one) and you start to realize how packed with information a normal day is.
For many of us, this type of constant communication and bombardment of information is typical. It is also robbing us of our time. Beyond depending on these forms of communication and sources of information, we feel like we are “out of the loop” if we spend even a few moments disconnected from them.
While these forms of communication and information sources keep us in the know, they keep us from fully living our lives. They also create clutter and challenge our internal filters that tell us what is worth our time and what wastes it. It also creates a bunch of clutter as we access information from many places and are getting more and more distracted from what is important while the trivial replaces what matters.
Do you really need to monitor that Twitter feed or does it distract you from engaging in an important face-to-face conversation with someone? Do the 20 RSS Feeds giving you various forms of advice really help or do they become a chore or time waster?
What we really need to do is get rid of the clutter. Instead of seeking loads of information, seek simplicity. Take some time to shut things down and just think.
I have found time and time again, that when I resist the urge to become distracted by the various forms of communication and sources of information out there, I begin to listen. I start to listen to those around me and most importantly, I begin to listen to myself.
When you take a step back you start to ask questions like, “is this thing I am doing really getting me closer to my goals?” or “is all this added complexity really helping or distracting me?” things begin to get clearer.
With the publication of my second book approaching, I took some time to conduct a self-inventory. I realized that only a small subset of my activity promoting my first book produced a vast majority of the sales. I became so wrapped up in having to check off boxes and having a presence on every medium that I lost track of what was truly important: getting my message out and helping people.
I am not here to say that all this information and these social platforms are bad, I am just saying that in moderation (a la the age-old advice of Aristotle) it can be incredibly valuable but too much can be damaging.
This “disconnected” time will help you realize what is important and what to eliminate. It is remarkable the ancillary things we do that keep us from reaching our goals, preventing us from spending our time on what is important.
Take time to unplug and ask yourself whether what you are doing now supports your personal and professional goals or whether you are becoming your own biggest obstacle. Instead of adopting the complexities that life has created, seek simplicity and clarity.
Don’t come up with 20 goals to reach. Odds are, focusing on 20 things at once will stop you from accomplishing any of them. Pick 3 or 5 and align your efforts and activities on that targeted list.
Seek simplicity and welcome the moments of clarity that come from when you unplug, take a step back and listen. This is the one thing you can do to make you successful at anything you want to accomplish. Whether a personal issue or complex group project, suddenly complexities will be replaced by an identification of what you need to do to reach your goals; a key first step in finding success.
Aaron McDaniel, is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being one of the youngest ever appointed appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog to learn more.