5 Ways to Stay Focused in Our Fast-Paced World
I am learning to adapt to a faster pace of change these days. Now that hardly sounds like news, and certainly, I am not alone. Passing through my home airport today I crossed paths with a dear friend who commented on the current level of unpredictability and need for flexibility and last minute planning in her business these days. The past several days have clearly demonstrated to me the last-minute nature of the world today and the necessity of my being able to go with the flow.
Yesterday I got a phone call that resulted in me flying across the continent (yes, I am writing this on the plane) to deliver a short presentation to a large group of senior executives in the US Federal Government. The scheduled presenter had last minute health problems and I was asked to fill in if I could. Three days ago I got a phone call from an organization asking if I could spend two days with their group next week. However, next week is already committed to another organization who confirmed their project just two weeks ago. I will find a way to help the first organization the week after next if they can make that work out on their end. The week after that has been committed to a public program we planned several months ago, however, our recent experience has been that people are committing to these programs at the last minute, which makes our planning more challenging.
Peter Russell has long been a favorite author of mine. His thoughts on the reality and impacts of today’s speed of change in his delightful book Waking Up in Time are well worth reading. He uses a unique analogy of a 108-storey building to describe the increasing pace of change. To make a long story short I will share the highlights: street level is the formation of our planet; simple cells develop by the 25th floor; complex cells capable of sexual reproduction appear at the 70th floor, fish crawl out of the sea at 99; dinosaurs reign from 104 – 107 and mammals arrive at 108. Things really speed up when homo erectus walk upright a few inches from the top of that floor; the Renaissance happens in the last layer of paint and the current information age is no more than a microscopic layer on top, almost too thin to measure.
Clearly, things are speeding up at a level well beyond my small insignificant world. Nor is there a sign things will slow down anytime soon. Living and thriving in our world of ever-quickening change has become a necessary survival skill for all of us. Here are a few things I have found helpful and continue to try and pay attention to as ways of staying sane and focused in our fast-paced world:
- Keep your eye on the ball. First, you have to determine what the ball is and then you have to stay focused on it. The ‘ball’ is 1 or 2 things so important to your life that if you lost absolutely everything else but those 1 or 2 things, your life would essentially remain unchanged. It is unlikely the ‘ball’ is about money, work, career or organizations. They are more likely to be about relationships, health, hearth & home, and happiness.
- Shorten your planning horizons. While it is always nice to have a long-term plan and goals for your life and career, concern yourself with what you need to get done by the end of the day, or by the end of the week. Leave the longer term open to sort itself out. Remember the old saying – our anxiety doesn’t come from thinking about the future, rather from wanting to control it.
- Remember your sense of humor. Look for ways to find the absurdity in your current situation. Remember how to laugh at yourself. Find a video of Bob Newhart, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg or whoever is your favorite comic. Hang out with people who make you laugh.
- Re-commit yourself to your current job – for now. Intentionally decide if where you are working is good enough for now. Don’t worry about a career plan for the rest of your life simply decide if this is the place you want to apply your talents, passion, and energy for the next few days, weeks or perhaps month or two. If it is, great, but if it isn’t, get out and find another place to work. Life is too short to work in a place that is draining and defeating you day in and day out. Good people can always find good work, and good work will always find good people.
- Remember the basics. Eat good food, get some exercise and some fresh air each day, get adequate rest and spend lots of time with people you love. With that in place, everything else will work itself out. And remember, life is too short to drink cheap wine.
The engines have quieted down, we have started our descent, and it is time for yet another trip through an airport. Thanks for sharing this flight with me. Good luck in your own process of learning how to thrive on the quickening pace of change, and check out our e-resource Getting Through These Days if you’re interested in additional insights.
Copyright 2016 Chris Edgelow, Sundance Consulting Inc.