I bought my first personal computer in 1986 in Lawton, OK while at the Field Artillery Officer’s Advanced Course. The IBM PC Jr. was little more than a word processor, calculator and organizer of digital 3 X 5 cards. And, it was the coolest thing ever.
Fast forward 1994….my first email address… SomethingSomethingSomething@Compuserve.Com. For those of you too young to experience going from a world with no email to a world with email, that was something special. Nothing short of amazing. Fast forward to 2014… email is amazing alright. An amazing pain in the …
Before email I considered myself as productive as could be. I got more out of an 8 hour (ok, 10-11 hour) day than anyone I knew. The advent of the digital bombardment has changed the context of the workday (and night). Email (not to mention texts, alerts, web browsing, instant messaging (don’t get me started!)) has created the ‘right here, right now’ mentality that can reduce the most focused person to a perennial daydreamer. Oh, and did I mention Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… These days, armed with the latest and greatest technology I go home literally asking myself on the commute – ‘Did I get anything done today’?
I carry three devices; Windows Phone Lumia 1520, iPad Mini, and MSFT Surface Pro 2. Actually, a 4th is the Kindle Paperwhite which I use because it’s the only device I can’t get ‘notifications’ i.e., distracted from performing the mission at hand. I want for nothing re: software/hardware.
An email comes in, and each device jingles. That was a neat feature early on. Currently, the number of jingles per minute could keep a cartoon character dancing 24 hours a day. Yes, I know I should turn off notifications, but perhaps I don’t because deep down I am still amazed this technology exists. With each passing day, the bombardment increases, and I just don’t know what to do. I am constantly behind, and hopelessness is setting in. Is there a 12 step program for Email?
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Several years ago, the email overwhelm wasn’t so bad, I just didn’t know how to organize it and collate the information it contained. Our company hired a consulting firm, McGhee Productivity Solutions, to come in and teach us Outlook. Their Email and Communication Program was fantastic, the instructor (Jennifer Wilmoth) a joy to work with (and still is to this day). My assessment of the program was it created an environment where we could be exponentially more productive, collaborative, and communicative. And we were/are. I learned techniques for converting email to tasks and calendar items; I learned the 4 D’s (do, delete, delegate, defer). Sending email to OneNote. All the great systems. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the more efficient I became, the more I feel like I could take on. And, if you’re like me and think you are Superman…take on more than is realistically possible. So, the past years I have allowed a digital vortex to surround me. Schedule an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon (while ‘working offline’)…sure, good luck with that. Constantly playing defense, never being ‘caught up’, and feeling like I always am disappointing someone by failing to respond in a timely and focused manner.
I can’t work any harder, I believe I work smarter… so what am I to do?
I feel digital overwhelm is one of the biggest challenges facing executives today. Do I have company in this maelstrom? Let’s all help each other out, how do you handle the digital vortex. I’d welcome hearing thoughts, suggestions, comments, and real life stories.