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Time is the currency of life.

Don’t make your job your whole life. If you become too focused on picking the fruit you may miss the flowers that are there as well. Always keeping busy at your work not only keeps you from working smart, it keeps you from fully enjoying life.  Participating in other things and enjoy what life itself has to offer. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

You are not what you do. If you believe you are what you do, when you don’t, you aren’t. Someday you will no longer be able to do what you do now – either due to retirement, infirmity or whatever. Everyone should love their job; but not to the extent that they are unable to find happiness doing anything else.

Life doesn’t really begin at 40 any more than it ends at 65. I think as an octogenarian I am qualified to say this – at least as a personal observation. One thing I have observed is that some retirees adjust poorly to their new environment and lifestyle. And I believe that the reason that many of them do poorly when facing major changes such as retirement, moving to the country or taking up residence in a senior’s home is that they are unable or reluctant to change the way they use their time. They are too firmly entrenched in the work – sleep – work cycle. And when the work is gone, what is left to replace it?

For example, when I moved from a condo in the city of Toronto to an apartment in the small town of Sussex, New Brunswick, I didn’t expect I would be enjoying stage plays or attending the same church or taking the subway to an underground shopping mall or golfing with my best friend or taking in the odd afternoon movie. If I did, I would be miserable; because none of those things are readily available to me – not the same neighbours or same friends or the familiar coffee shop where I spent a lot of time or one of my sons who had lived just a few miles away.

But within a year, I had made new friends, participated regularly in new activities, joined a new church, volunteered in different organizations, and have a different favorite coffee shop where I do the biggest chunk of my writing.

You must be willing to change the way you use your time – not on worse things, just on different things. True happiness does not come from the things you do or the people you meet or where you live. True happiness comes from within, not from specific things that you may have spent your life doing.

It’s easier to get involved in other things after retirement if you’ve being more flexible with your use of time during your working years. I started my career as a workaholic – dedicated fully to my job to the detriment of my family life and social life. Books I read, workshops I attended, trips I took – all revolved around the career I was committed to at the time.

Perhaps it was the broken marriage, the bleeding ulcers and the failing part-time business that first got my attention – and prompted some major changes in my mindset.

That resulted in my lifetime purpose – my calling – to help others manage their time and their lives. But more important, it introduced me to the real source of joy – the happiness within – the one who does the calling – God Himself.

It didn’t take me a year to feel comfortable in my new surroundings. My faith is the source of my strength, my lifestyle and my attitude as well as my purpose in life. I believe we are all created for a purpose and it’s up to us to discover it. The bible tells us that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It’s difficult to discover our purpose by keeping our nose to the grindstone, working from dawn to dusk. That would only give us a flat nose.

We must explore life on a daily basis, open our minds and hearts to relationships, nature, hobbies and other outside interests as well as our spirituality.

Don’t spend all your time on one activity until the day you retire. Time is the currency of life. Spend it wisely.

 

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Increase the effectiveness of your training.

When it comes to learning, it has been shown that the more senses that are involved, the better you learn – regardless of your so-called “learning style.” For instance everyone learns better when they’re moving. Motion engages more parts of the brain. So does emotion. Showing, telling, doing, storytelling, visuals, sounds, smells all aid in the learning process.

There were studies done where the researchers separated subjects in a room into three groups. The first group got information through one sense only – example, hearing. The second group was limited to another sense, say sight. And the final group was exposed to both sight and sound. This third group always did better. They had more accurate recall, and their problem-solving skills improved. The combination of senses was always greater than the sum of their parts. Here are a few ways to engage the senses.

The use of stories in training.

Roger Shank, a cognitive scientist, says that humans are not set up to understand logic; but are set up to understand stories. Facts are readily available on the Internet as well as in your workshops. What matters, according to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.

Facts and suggestions, no matter how logical or practical they may be, are frequently ignored or forgotten. But include these same facts in a true story or example, enriched with emotion, and people can immediately relate, remember, and frequently put into practice. Stories are essential to the learning process.

Demonstrations aid the learning process.

Demonstrations, especially when they actively involve the participants, are effective teaching tools. For example, when explaining prioritizing and the 80/20 Rule, I sometimes make the point by tossing 80 one-dollar bills and 20 twenty-dollar bills on the floor. (I use phony “Dollar Store” money; but if you’re wealthy, the real thing has an even greater impact.)

Then I tell a couple of volunteers to pick up all they can in 5 seconds, picking up only one bill at a time. Most people zero in on the twenties. But they don’t actually do that in their own jobs or personal lives when it comes to the important projects & tasks.

Know your participants.

Getting individuals involved even before the actual training, generates more interest, lends credibility to the training, and assures that you deliver information and strategies relevant to their needs.

If training people in time management, for instance, you might develop a time waster checklist or a survey sheet to identify their problems, and ask for their objectives in taking the program.

For a more complete discussion of this topic, refer to my eBook, “How to increase the effectiveness of your training,” published by Bookboon.com.

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Procrastination or intentional delay?

In a regular chess game you would be foolish to make it lightning fast move when you have the time to think over the possible repercussions of such a move. But in hockey, deliberating for any length of time over whether you should pass or shoot could mean a lost opportunity to score. There are situations that call for quick action and ones that call for delay.

In hockey, you wouldn’t call the lost opportunity to score due to passing instead of shooting, procrastination. It might be better described as an error in judgment or even a wrong guess. But in either case, the player’s action was a result of an earnest intent to get a goal for his or her team, not the result of inertia, disinterest, a lack of motivation or fear of making the wrong decision. Perhaps an older, more experienced player would make the correct decision; but then again, a younger more experienced goalie might stop the park regardless.

Similarly in business, there is a time for action and a time for delay. But if you delay in responding immediately to a derogatory or sarcastic email rather than snap back with an equally unflattering response, you wouldn’t call that procrastination. You would call it intentional delay. There is a time for quick action and a time for delay, depending on the situation. Launching a new product before first doing adequate market research is not procrastination. Neither is editing a manuscript before submitting it to a publisher or rehearsing a sales presentation before visiting a prospect. Delay is sometimes essential to success.

Probably more problems are caused by making decisions too quickly than by waiting too long. This is especially true in this digital age of speed, when we are being urged to think fast, act fast and make split-second decisions.

This “act now or else” mentality puts one under undue stress – the consequences of which could far exceed that of a lost sale or other missed opportunity.

Frank Portnoy, author of the book, “Wait: the art & science of delay,” not only believes that technology is speeding up all our decisions in an unhealthy way, but also has researched the impact of delay and has found that people are often happier and more effective in their decisions when they do delay – and even when they procrastinate.

I’m not in favour of procrastination if you define it as putting off something that requires immediate attention. But there’s nothing wrong with intentionally delaying something if you feel it would be to your advantage to do so.

It’s important for us to think before we react so that we are at least aware of the possible consequences of our actions. It also gives us time to “cool down” (such as the case of replying to an infuriating email message) and to have peace about our decision. In other words, be effective, not reactive.

Being impulsive and cause problems – especially in this hyper-connected world where people can become addicted to speed.  Practising self-discipline, on the other hand, can improve over time.

Continually putting off an important decision, even though you already have sufficient facts to make an informed decision, is procrastination. Even if there are no dire consequences of doing so, it produces a certain degree of anxiety, and delays any benefits derived from the decision. And delays in this case are likely motivated by an unwarranted fear of making the wrong decision or being overwhelmed by busyness or simply not wanting to do what the decision would require one to do as a result.

But there is nothing wrong with leaving something until a more convenient time if it’s not imperative to do it now. That’s simply intentional delay for a good reason. Don’t put yourself on a guilt trip every time you do this.

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Let the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Every goal you set, by definition, is in the future; but life occurs in the present. Don’t be so focused on what you are aiming to accomplish that you miss the joy of living in the now. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

Life is a precious gift. What a shame if you’re too busy to fully unwrap it. Don’t let “Enjoy life” be the last item on your “To do” list. What’s the sense of having it all if you only have time to enjoy a little of it?

Susan Pinker, (www.SusanPinker.com) author of the book, “The village effect,” is a developmental psychologist who is spent 25 years in clinical practice and teaching psychology at Dawson College and McGill University. Her research concluded that our human connections have a huge impact on our well-being and physical health – even to the point of extending our lives. She claims that women live an average of six years longer than men because they tend to prioritize spending time with friends more than men do.

The full benefit is only achieved through person-to-person contact, not through social media, email or texting. Pinker says that face-to-face interaction (even making eye contact, shaking hands or giving high fives) lowers your cortisone levels and releases dopamine, making you less stressed and giving you a little high.

One of the most important things in finding true happiness and meaning in our lives, according to author Emily Esfahani Smith (“The power of meaning”) is a sense of belonging – having people in your life who truly love and care about you.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Relationships are protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s, lengthens your life, and help you cope with traumas such a serious illness or loss of loved one.

Isolation, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your health, and people who feel lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The very things that make us thrive – relationships, nature, exercise, and healthy eating – are at risk if we continue to focus on creating a better life for ourselves and not leaving ample time to enjoy the one we already have.

The best time of your life should be right now.

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Customer service in the age of speed

In one the first books I wrote over thirty-five years ago titled “Making time to sell,” I told the story of how a successful advertising salesperson explained his secret of selling advertising space by saying that he was a “six-minute salesman.” In those days, at least, a major hurdle was just getting to see the prospect. He would do so by promising the prospect that he would only take six minutes of his or her time. “Seven,” he would add, “if you ask questions”. The prospect was usually impressed. He didn’t really want to see the salesman, but this he had to see!

When the appointed time came, the salesman would walk into the prospect’s office, place his wristwatch on the desk and start his presentation.

The salesman claims the time urgency put him in control of the meeting. It also forced him to pare down his presentation and make every word count. The prospect was indeed impressed, appreciated the respect being shown for his time, and generally took more than the six minutes just asking questions. In fact, the prospect would usually detain the salesman well beyond twenty minutes – yet would not have agreed to see the salesman at all if he had actually asked for twenty minutes or more of his time.

Selling skills have increased dramatically during the last thirty-five years, while time management skills have remained the same. There are certain principles in conserving time just as there are basic principles in selling. They may not be applicable to all selling situations, but it may pay you to review them. There are hundreds of books on effective time management, including a few of my own.

A poorly organized, unplanned, rambling presentation eliminates some of the inroads made by the company through advertising and promotion, thus wasting the company’s time and money.  And the prospects themselves may be missing a great opportunity to increase profits, cut costs or improve service.

If you are a professional or operate a business where the customer comes to you, don’t keep them waiting. A certain amount of waiting can’t be avoided – especially in the case of doctors, lawyers, accountants and so on. But research shows that customers perceive waiting time to be less if there are signs to read in your waiting room – or anything else that will keep them occupied. Always have something to read such as current magazines and signs as well as Wi-Fi. If appropriate, TV and a play area with toys for kids would also be a plus.

Waiting time also seems shorter if customers have someone to talk to. Paco Underhill, in his book “Why we buy,” recommends taking care of the customer within two minutes. This is not always possible; but any waiting without contact over a minute and a half creates time distortion in the minds of the customers.

Time waiting after initial contact seems to go faster than the same amount of time spent waiting before the interaction. So acknowledging that the customer is waiting tends to relieve time anxiety. It is a good idea to acknowledge the customer when they first arrive and at least every five minutes thereafter.

Even giving the customer an estimate of the waiting time is better than nothing. Underhill claims that being told the wait would be about two minutes makes an actual four or five-minute wait go faster.

In a supermarket or in some retail store situations, a single line leading to the cashiers ensures that people are served in turn. And impulse items placed where the line forms, not only distracts from the wait, but is also smart merchandising.

Customers hate waiting in line, and stores with long line-ups at the check-outs frequently encounter abandoned carts containing merchandise.

This “want it now” syndrome was evident in the studies described in Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology book. Students were offered either a $15 Amazon gift certificate right away or a $20 gift certificate in two weeks. They chose the $15 certificate. The students’ brains were scanned as they were made the offers, and the “$15 right now” offer caused an unusual flurry of stimulation in those areas of the brain responsible for our emotional life.

This could explain the popularity of such services as overnight delivery, instant Kindle book downloads, and express checkouts. So keep in mind that it might pay you to use priority mail for shipping, for example, where the packaging is provided. Or courier – even though it’s more expensive to do so. You could also build the shipping cost into the price of the product.

Time does make a difference to the customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading this article could kill you.

Not really. But it did get you to at least read the first line, didn’t it? And did I detect a sigh of relief as you did so? Some people’s curiosity exceeds even their fear of death.

This illustrates the importance of a title when writing a book, article or promotion piece.

Even a weekly blog article deserves a well thought out title. Many of us, myself included, will tack on anything that even hints at the topic – assuming people will read it anyway. After all, once they start reading they’ll realize the value that’s awaiting them.

Not so. Unless you’re some famous expert on the topic closest to their hearts, which you and I probably aren’t, they won’t give it a second glance. There are too many articles out there and too little time available. And if you spend an hour or more writing an article or a day or more writing and e-zine or a month or more writing an e-book, why would you not spend at least a fraction of that time ensuring that your product at least gets read?

The heading or title should do more than simply grab their attention. It should identify the contents to convince the readers to keep reading. Ideally it will be concise, informative, and convey the essential message of the text that follows.

As Karel Rakusan of the University of Ottawa suggests in an editorial on the importance of titles, carefully weigh every word as though it were a $5 million, 30-second commercial during a Super Bowl, costing $167,000 per second.

In the case of a blog post, your title is the most important marketing tool you have. It is what will appear in search engine results, links, and social media sites.

In books, a title is also a marketing tool. It could grab the attention of the publisher and ensure your book is read and ultimately accepted for publication. In the case of self-published books, the fate of the book could be determined in large part by its title. It’s the first thing potential buyer sees upon spotting the book in the bookstore or on your website.

If you do work with a publisher, don’t pressure too much to have your own working title accepted. Publishers have more experience than the rest of us on what would generate sales. “Gone with the wind” might not have been as successful as the original title, “Tomorrow is another day,” and “The great Gatsby” might have bombed as “Trimalchio in west egg.” I had my original 1981 book titled “Managing yourself with respect to time“ since it more accurately defined the essence of time management. But with the publishers changing it to “Making time work for you,” it became a Canadian bestseller.

If your title can be read and understood quickly, contains a benefit or promise to the reader in an area of obvious interest, and is composed in such a way that it is unique or at least “catchy,” you have a great title.

If you can trigger emotion as well, it is a winner.

Techniques available to you include posing a question, being controversial, and using power words. To do all of the above and still keep your title brief is a challenge. But don’t forget, you still have the use of a subtitle as a backup.

But never forget that your article or book has to deliver whatever the title promises. So this article just didn’t make the cut.

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Does deep reading differ in digital?

Deep reading involves slowing down, concentrating on the meaning of what you are reading, highlighting key sentences, and sometimes flipping back to previous pages as necessary so you are sure to understand the information being communicated.

Reading is an active process in which you are searching out information with a highlighter or pen in hand while focusing fully on the task. I have recommended in the past, for instance, that to actively read an article, you might change the title into a question and search for the answer or answers as you read.

In order to focus effectively you must have adequate time to do so, and strong attention skills, one of the brain based “executive skills” that improves with age and practice.

The results of deep reading include enhanced comprehension and enjoyment of the text, improved memory and recall, and an increase in both your knowledge and your ability to think, analyse, and express yourself. It also exercises your brain.

This is not to say that you cannot participate in deep reading on screens when reading electronic books or web articles; but it is more difficult. The nature of the medium leaves you more vulnerable to interruptions – everything from advertising pop-ups to the notification of an email or incoming text message or a Twitter retweet. Also, people use the technology to save time, speed up work and get more done in an equivalent amount of time. The tendency is to grab snippets of information that appear relevant and ignore the rest. It is difficult to resist the urge to skim, skip ahead, and take quick side trips to check email or respond to a text message.

Most people find it difficult to slow down and focus on their reading when doing so on a computer or iPhone. Canadian author John Meidema refers to the web as a “distraction machine”, and indicates in his book, Slow Reading, that deep reading requires time, care and effort.

Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, claims that studies by psychologists, neurologists and educators find that when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Links are particularly distracting, and studies show that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. Comprehension declines whether or not people actually click on them.

According to Carr’s book, the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory (short-term memory) to long-term memory. But a bottleneck is created since working memory can only hold a relatively small amount at a time. When we are swamped with information, links, images, and advertising, the information spills over, so to speak, and doesn’t make it into our long-term storage. It’s like watering a house plant by continuing to pour on more water without giving it a chance to soak in. But when we read paper books for instance, we transfer information a little at a time into long-term memory and form associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

That being said, we have to face the fact that the digital age is here to stay. Every year more bookstores go out of business, and only the megastores survive. E-books are easy to buy, readily available and less expensive.

I still buy hardcopy books; because I find them easier to highlight, make notes in the margins, and to reference long after I’ve gone on to other books and topics. I tend to remember more of the information – even its location in the chapter – and I find this essential when using information in my books and articles. The flipping of pages with a highlighter in hand seems to keep me focused. And I’ve yet to experience eyestrain or headaches when reading a hardcopy book.

I do buy Kindle books as well, and currently have over 150 of them on my iPhone; but many of them are duplicates of the hardcopy versions in my library. This allows me to refer to them while travelling, and in waiting rooms – anywhere away from the office for that matter. The bulk of them are the free or 99 cents or $1.99 specials announced daily by BookBub.com. I use many of these for reference only.

If you have chosen the e-book route exclusively, remember the importance of concentration. According to an article by Naomi Baron in the Washington Post, over 92% of those surveyed said they concentrate best when reading hardcopy. Reading is not a passive exercise like watching TV.

And don’t forget the human aspect of reading. How many family members gather around the fireplace with their e-readers in hand or take their iPhones to the monthly book club meetings?

Well, maybe that’s changing as well.

 

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You don’t have to throw a fit when you throw something out.

In the August, 2018 issue of Psychology Today, Glen Adamson, author of the book, “Fewer, better things” is said to believe that we should limit our purchases to things we find to be beautiful, meaningful or useful. Since at least two of these three requirements are in the mind of the purchaser, this tells me that anything goes. It may be a sensible suggestion; but does little to curb my spending habits nor reduce any clutter that may appear in my small apartment.

Marie Kondo, author of the book, The life-changing magic of tidying up and spark joy, urges us to get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. But depending on your mood at the time, this could prompt you to discard everything you own. And according to an article by Sara Eckel in the same issue of Psychology Today, at least one woman later regretted that she had parted with her beloved books and her late father’s favourite radio.

Stories like this that make me thankful that I limit my coaching of individuals to helping them manage their time as opposed to managing their possessions. The two are certainly related. The more possessions you have, the greater the demand on your time. But at least I feel no guilt in letting them make their own decisions when it comes to tossing stuff.

I have great respect for those professional organizers who help people make decisions as to what to keep and what to toss. We are complicated beings, and it seems impossible to get inside our heads and analyse our thought processes. For example, I couldn’t even begin to fully explain why I could never part with that vintage 1930s typewriter on my credenza even if I were offered $1 million for it.

I like Sara Eckel’s statement: “The key questions: is your stuff – or lack of it – interfering in your life? Does it make you feel overwhelmed? Are you aggravating the people you live with by leaving your possessions everywhere, or by tidying their things?”

Possessions do not necessarily equate to clutter. I have a locker full of possessions that I refuse to part with. I can visit them at any time – without them interfering with my efficiency or effectiveness while I am working in my home office. I realize they will be quickly discarded by my children when I’m gone; but they are my security blanket. They ensure me that I have led a life of significance. I will always have a past, even though I may someday be unable to recall it. I have had friends, experiences and accomplishments – and have loved and been loved.

This allows me to concentrate fully on the present, continuing to do what I love doing, and making new friends, having new experiences, and continuing to lead a life of purpose.

Having said all this, people should listen to all the advice they can get, and some of that may resonate with their own beliefs and help them make their own decisions. For example, here are a few thoughts and ideas I have culled from books and articles such as those mentioned above.

  • Living with less stuff has made many people more clear-headed and content.
  • Lugging bags of usable stuff to thrift shops such as those of the Salvation Army, might leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. It certainly provides a service to others.
  • You are not being disrespectful of someone, whether living or dead, if you toss something they gave to you. They live in your heart, not in the object.
  • Having less stuff in your home, all of which consume time and space, can improve communication and allow you to focus on what is truly important in your family.
  • For every item that holds special meaning to you, there are likely a dozen or more that don’t. If you made an error by purchasing something, don’t compound the error by keeping it.
  • A certain amount of clutter is normal; but its continued growth is unhealthy. Consider nipping it in the bud.

On a more personal note, I find that I work and live much better in an organized, clutter-free environment. And the few things I have tossed and later regretted were more than offset by the hundreds of things I got rid of and never missed.

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Fatal phrases at the front and finish of meetings.

We have all had our fill of the common suggestions for conducting effective meetings – everything from starting on time and ending on time to working with a timed agenda. But I want to add some statements and questions that as a chairperson you might want to avoid.

“Anybody have a good joke before we begin?”

This is rarely, if ever asked. But some participants seem to think the ritual of an icebreaker such as this is mandatory. Socialize before and after the meeting if you wish to do so, but time is valuable, and some people can ill afford to waste any of it. If 10 people are present and earning an average of $60 per hour, those jokes are costly – $10 per minute. Would you pay $50 to hear a five minute “shaggy dog” story?

“If you know of anyone else who should be on this committee, let me know.”

Sure let’s make the committee as inefficient and ineffective as possible. We all know that the effectiveness of a meeting varies indirectly with the number of people present.  And according to the book, Decide and Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough and Performance in your Organization, once you have seven people in a decision-making group, every additional person reduces effectiveness by 10 percent. This is referred to as the “Rule of Seven.” Once the number exceeds twelve, you will find it very difficult to accomplish the meeting’s objectives. The old bromide that two heads are better than one assumes that both hands are thinking in the same direction.

 “Anything else before we adjourn?”

Please, let’s waste as much time as possible while we’re all here – we’re on a roll! If you have already finished the agenda, including any “new business” items, why drag it out? It’s not a crime to finish a meeting earlier than the estimated ending time. That was indicated only so you can plan your day accordingly. And the time allocated to each item was an indication of its importance and how you should manage yourself during the discussion. The actual ending time of any meeting should be when the objective of the meeting has been reached. Any time redeemed is a gift.

“Everyone please get their reports to me as soon as possible.”

You’re asking for trouble. That’s another way of saying, “Get them to me whenever you get around to it.” Not only should specific people be responsible for submitting specific reports, they should also have specific dates to submit them. And those dates should be before the next meeting. Not only are you to assign responsibilities and deadlines, you will have to follow up with the people concerned to ensure that actions decided at the meeting are completed on schedule.

“Let’s all sleep on it and we’ll make the decision at the next meeting.”

By all means. At the next meeting, we may not have a quorum and can delay it even longer. And we want to make sure we have enough items to discuss at the next meeting. We also will have to explain the item to anyone not at this current meeting as well. That should waste a bit more time. Sleeping on it will only increase your sleep, not your wisdom. Make the decision now and get it over with.

If you would like more information on conducting effective meetings, refer to my e-book, Make your meetings more productive, published by Bookboon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bringing you up to speed.

27 years ago, I wrote the following article titled, “Don’t become obsessed with speed: save some time for the things you enjoy.” I thought I would reproduce it here in its entirety, complete with its outdated references to such things as speedy memos and videos. We had no iPhones, iPads, email or instant messaging in those days, and yet we complained about the fast pace of life. It had taken about 38 years for radio to be adopted by 50 million people, and when TV came along it took only 13 years. But it only took iPad two years and Google Plus 88 days. Speed continues to increase. How are you coping? Here’s the article.

September, 1991.

“Ever get the feeling you’re being rushed through life with little opportunity to enjoy its pleasures enroute? Stopping briefly at O’Hara international Airport in Chicago, I was confronted with the following fast food outlets for travellers in a hurry:

Speedy Buns and Rolls.

Ice Cream Express.

Hasty Pastry.

Deli in a Hurry.

Lightning Lounge.

Bun on the Run.

Mexican in a Minute.

Fast Far East.

These names seem to exemplify the prevailing atmosphere in North America. No longer is rapid transit a mode of transportation; it’s a way of life. People don’t seem to be as concerned with where they are going as with how soon they get there. Who has the time to set goals, plan and determine a course of action?

Get rich quick schemes, accelerated learning and rapid advancement are valued far more than quality relationships and the more tranquil lifestyle. Our society seems to place an unhealthy emphasis on getting things done quickly. We have fast foods, instant puddings and TV dinners. We are wooed by rapid transit, express lanes, fast checkouts and even quickie divorces. We use hasty notes, speedy memos and travelling requisitions. Fast living is in vogue.

We have electronic tellers, moving sidewalks and vending machines that dispense everything from nylons to videos. Escalators allow us to run upstairs faster. Self-serve service stations, bag-your-own supermarkets and stand-up restaurants help to keep us on the move.

Even company names reflect the value of this haste: Speedy muffler, Road Runner, Speed Queen, and Quickasair. Pizza parlours guarantee 30 minute service. Signs promise no waiting.

Time management courses are particularly appealing because they explain how we can get things done faster. Oh, they contain valuable counsel, such as the importance of family time, leisure and personal goals; but even the seminars are being conducted more quickly to meet the demands of people in a hurry. Three-hour and even one hour courses are becoming more popular. Most people seem to be after a quick fix for what ails them.

With speed seems to come a lack of control. We get the feeling we are being whisked through life as though there is a plan for our life, but we’re not in it. And just as to do lists create the impression that crossing off items is a measure of progress, so are we being conditioned to believe that speed is a measurement of accomplishment.

How is all this affecting the quality of life? Already liquid breakfasts allow us to skip time at the table, electronic games replace the need of a partner, and everything we could ever desire is being piped onto our TV screens, eliminating the necessity for social interaction. Where will it end?

It’s great to be able to save time. But to what end? Some people have become so obsessed with saving time that they are cutting time off those things they were trying to save time for. The objective of time management is to spend less time on meaningless activities and routine activities so we will have more time to spend on the meaningful activities. It is not meant to reduce the time being spent on those meaningful activities.

Some of us enjoy a leisurely meal with our family, a night out with their friends and conversation with other human beings. Some of us even enjoy shopping in person, dawdling in a restaurant, or getting exercise the old-fashioned way, walking.

Hang onto those things you enjoy. Don’t allow yourself to be swept along by the tyranny of the times. Make sure you are not shaving time from what you consider quality time.

There’s a story about a speeding motorist who gave this explanation to a policeman who had stopped him: “Officer, this road is so dangerous that I was hurrying to get off it.” He could just as well have claimed that life is so dangerous and that he was hurrying to get through it. Many of us behave as though this were true.

There is certainly nothing wrong with becoming more efficient at accomplishing more in less time; but let’s not be blinded to the fact that speed sometimes distracts us from our values and life goals. Efficiency is doing things in the best possible way; but effectiveness is doing the best possible things. Those things are activities which reflect our values.

During goal-setting sessions people were asked to list the personal activities that were most rewarding, enjoyable and productive. Most people were able to do this with little difficulty. When asked to record the date or month they last perform such activities, they had trouble recalling it because it had been so long ago.

It’s one thing to set goals. It’s quite another to ensure that our daily and weekly activities reflect those goals. This requires constant review as to what we are doing. And it is difficult to review while going at breakneck speed.

Let’s not keep pace with the crowd; but keep pace with our plan – constantly reviewing our progress towards the goals that we have set.”

July, 2018.

Well, it’s 27 years later, and life doesn’t appear to have slowed down any. Have you managed to maintain adequate time for those things that you really enjoy, and that reflect your values? Or has your iPhone just dinged, stimulating a shot of dopamine, which now compels you to access Twitter to confirm that one of your one-liners has just been re-tweeted by one of your 1200 followers?