Finding balance in a world of information overload
I recently listened to a story on NPR about the acceleration of information in the world. We’ve all heard or read similar, mind boggling, stories. Things like “more data will be generated in the next four years than in the history of the world.” One intended consequence is the speed at which work gets done. Tasks that used to take agencies days to complete, now take seconds.
So much of my day, and I would suspect of everyone’s day, is spent at what I call email triage—culling through the dozens of emails and deciding which have to be dealt with immediately, which need to be forwarded to others to deal with, which can wait ‘till later (sometimes indefinitely) and which can be deleted, including such irritants as “there are brownies in the lunch room.” And with smart phones you are never truly off. I spent four days in Charleston with family recently responding, forwarding and deleting. In fact, a lot of my clients are now texting me with updates and requests and don’t even wait to get back to their offices. Now that’s what I call being pro-active. The meeting you’re in hasn’t concluded, and you’re already giving the agency direction.
Although deadlines have always been a part of this business, the speed at which we do our jobs has taken deadlines to a whole new level of immediacy. When I started in advertising hours were spent in meetings of course (some things haven’t changed), and a lot of time and attention among junior account types was crafting conference reports after the fact. AEs would have to capture not only the “to dos” of a meeting, but also the tenor of the meeting, the nuances of comments and the politics of those in the room. It was great training in account service. I suspect few people do conference reports anymore, and even fewer people read them. Instead, it’s just a cursory “who has to do what by when” email, if that.
None of this is a bad thing necessarily. It requires, however, a skill set that includes split-second decision making. But when do we allow time for thoughtful reflection, consultation with colleagues or even an occasional client lunch? You can learn a lot about a client over a sandwich, or a drink that makes for a better relationship. And I can’t remember the last time I said to a client “I’d like a day or two to think about it.” They’d think I were crazy or incapable or both.
Though I’m not one to ponder endlessly—in fact I have a rather short attention span as those that know me would attest—it would be nice to strike a balance, and while not agonizing over every decision, recognize when more time and attention is required.
Well it’s back to work. As of writing this brief blog my iPhone has been beckoning me and I’m certain my inbox is filled. Any suggestions?