Friday, May 05, 2006

On Overlooking Things

Fortune Magazine and CNN have recently spent ink and electrons pondering the challenges that knowledge workers face, deluged as we are by interminable electronic input. Who has not experienced the two-way cutting of the technology sword? It makes our lives easier in many ways, but it also claims parts of our lives that used to be off-limits. We are busier than ever, seemingly connected constantly to everyone in the world. So why is it that we seem to get less done?

I’m not immune; the sight of an un-read message in my email in box is like a bell to Pavlov’s dogs – I must read it! Now! The conditioning is so effective that I will check my email every few minutes unless I slap my own hand as it reaches for the mouse.

So I have set myself a task – a difficult task for one so digitaddictive. No email, not even a peek, for the next full hour. During that hour I will focus on only one project from my endless to-do list, and give it my full attention. When it’s done, I get 10 minutes – no more – of email before the next task. After that, it’s an hour and a half before email.

I can do this. Yes, I can. In a few days I’ll be up to three or four hours between emails and I’m sure my task list will be a lot shorter.

The Fortune article included a timely thought: "‘The art of being wise,’ philosopher William James wrote more than a century ago, ‘is the art of knowing what to overlook.’”

May we all be so wise.

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