Everyone can feel it

There is an ad for a US consultancy firm which talks about being paralysed by the whirlwind of daily activity. We have often used it as a video clip to see the reaction among a group. Regardless of it being a start-up or a multinational the reaction is always the same – resigned laughter that tells you the connection and the pain!

It is almost impossible not to get lost

Especially within this multi-connected world there are so many intrusive claims on our attention that it is almost impossible not to get lost in a whirlwind of activity – working so hard and so rapidly to respond. By responding to all that surely you must be making progress? Actually, probably not, and even worse the more you try the worse things probably get.

“Urgent” vs “important”

As a test, if you are lucky to get a week clear of intrusion (almost impossible in a start-up) it is always a sobering thought to look at the amount of urgent items that arose that you would on reflection have dealt with in that week. Even more sobering is how many of those items, with the gap of only a week, are now irrelevant. In the jargon used by the founder of that US consultancy, Stephen Covey, there is stuff that is “urgent” and stuff that is “important”. The human response is to give preference to stuff that seems urgent, even if not always actually important.

Even worse, when responding rapidly to many urgent demands, our thinking by default shifts towards an auto response type mode.* Now there is nothing necessarily wrong with that – indeed if you try to logically think through everything you get a different type of paralysis. However, when overused, what often happens is some truly important stuff gets “ticked through” when really we do need time to think.

Spent time with someone, who understands

And that is the conundrum at the heart of this whirlwind – where does the time come from? The reality though, is that, particularly in a start-up journey, you need to force a little time for two things. One, just time to let the brain waddle unconsciously – be it by running, watching your favourite soap or whatever secret pleasure you treat it to.   The other – for that reflective mental cold shower, just a little time spent with someone, who understands what you are trying to do but is not personally invested in it, who can give you that reflective sounding board .

Make that time, because whatever the price, the payback is enormous!

*Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman