By Michael Mink
“Even as we speak, envious time flies past,” Roman poet Horace wrote in 23 B.C. “Seize the day, and leave as little as possible for tomorrow.”
That’s courtesy of Roman Krznaric, author of “Carpe Diem: Seizing the Day in a Distracted World.” He asks, “How can this ancient philosophical wisdom be of use in today’s business world?”
In our efforts to seize the day something else is competing with us for it, seducing our time away, seemingly benignly.
Process this: the average person checks their phone 110 times a day, according to Krznaric.
“While we like to think this helps us at work — we’re keeping on top of things and staying connected — the habit of digital distraction can pull us away from doing really good work, where we are focused on a task, thinking through new strategies, and giving people we work with the attention they deserve,” he pointed out.
Krznaric recommends downloading an app like Checky, which records how often you check your phone. “You’ll be shocked by the result,” he promised. Also, apps like Freedom or AntiSocial switch off your internet access completely or to particular sites for a specified time period.
“You’ll be amazed by how much quality work you get done if you aren’t constantly plugged into the online universe,” Krznaric added.
Challenge yourself daily.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said every morning he would ask himself if today were his last, would he want to spend it doing what he was about to do?
“If the answer was no for too many days in a row, he realized that he knew he had to change something,” Krznaric said.
This was Job’s way of ensuring he was “staying true to his passions and values, and focusing on what really mattered,” Krznaric said. “Whether you’re a tech entrepreneur or managing a sales team, you can follow Jobs’ example and make sure you retain that big-picture perspective on your job.”
Aim for the summit.
To excel at your work, you must be motivated, creative and engaged.
Krznaric cites psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who says people can get into the zone or “flow state” by focusing on those tasks that are challenging and creative, yet not so difficult that they feel anxious about potentially failing.
“Make sure you keep challenging yourself enough so you can enter the flow state,” Krznaric said. Keep track of the kinds of work activities that get you into one “and try to do them more often.”
An inspired worker is 125% more productive than a merely satisfied one, added Michael Mankins, co-author with Eric Garton of “Time Talent Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power.
The root cause of unhealthy company collaboration is a company culture that requires more interactions than necessary to get work done, Mankins, also a partner with consulting titan Bain & Company’s San Francisco office, says.
A company culture that confuses inclusion with collaboration, he adds, encourages “managers and employees to include more people in decision-making and execution without getting the benefits of collaboration on productive output.”
Some ideas that Mankins offers to lighten loads:
Treat every meeting you schedule like it occurs at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. “Keep them short, keep them focused, keep the audience to a minimum.”
He also recommends not always responding to emails that don’t require a response, and “don’t copy people on emails that don’t need to know.”
It’s believed that around 15%-20% of adults are chronic procrastinators, 95% of whom wish they could reduce that tendency, Krznaric said.
“Act first, think later,” he advised. “That’s how we know what really works for us, and can give us the courage to embark on substantive change.
“This is a lesson that applies to all areas of business life. Sometimes you’ve got to stop thinking and planning, and (as Nike says) ‘Just Do It.’ We forge who we are, and who we want to be, in the white heat of experiential learning.”
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