Do Less, Think More

In a past issue of The Economist, an article suggested that workers would be better off if they did less and thought more. The author observed that today’s business environment has too many distractions and disruptions, and speculated that a major component of what’s keeping us all busy (and distracted) is social media.

Before technological advancements moved from a steady cadence to an all-out gallop, most managers had secretaries to handle their daily minutiae, which gave them a lot of time to think. Nowadays, secretaries — like rotary phones and vinyl records — have become nostalgic relics. One of the consequences of a hyper-connected world is that managers do their own typing and answer their own phones.

The technology revolution has been both a help and a hindrance in balancing our work schedules. In addition to participating in meetings, attending to projects, and strategizing, most modern day workers juggle phone calls, text and instant messages, and emails as a part of their daily (and often nightly) routines. The workday is supposed to be our most professionally creative time, but it’s hard to be creative when we are bombarded by a steady stream of distractions, oftentimes leaving the actual work to be completed during off-hours when we should be focused on our families, hobbies, and other personal pursuits.

While social media has opened up unprecedented possibilities for expanding our access to all kinds of people, it is also a major culprit for why so many of us feel so overwhelmed. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, as of 2013, almost 72% of online US adults used social networking sites, up from a mere 8% in early 2005. This dramatic increase no doubt reflects the influence of social media gurus who preach that the more you are connected and the more you share, then the more your profile will rise, the more followers you’ll gain, and the more likes you will earn! If they’re not engaged, people fear missing out, not being on the leading edge, not being the first to know. However, for most of us, all this engagement can be overwhelming, leaving no time for what is becoming the lost art of thinking.

Not so long ago, most employers prohibited workers from browsing the web. Now, we encourage employees to retweet and post on behalf of our firms so much so that we have integrated this activity into our marketing plans. And, more and more, bring-your-own-device policies mean people are connected to work 24/7.

In considering solutions to reduce our sense of being overwhelmed and for bringing thought and reflection back to the workplace, I am not advocating that employees stop using social media. In fact, I’m campaigning for both coworkers and friends to adopt and embrace it. After all, social media is one of the defining technologies of our time. However, like any technology, it can be overused.  No, what I am suggesting is that we schedule “digital detoxes.” It’s really quite simple and takes just a bit of planning.

As companies continue to embrace the web as a valid resource for connectivity, my hope is that they also will hold onto the values of thinking and reflection. While they exhort workers to leverage the power of social media, they should also encourage them to step away and put down the device regularly in order to focus, single-task, or maybe do a little thinking. This can only lead to a more enriched and balanced corporate culture.

Thinking is still an important business activity. If each of us would devote just one hour a week and unplug during normal working hours, consider how much more thinking we would do—approximately 55 million hours of thinking per week in the U.S. alone.

 

This post was originally published September 3, 2013, on the Optimity Advisors Blog

 

Make that Eight

About a year ago, I posted my Five Know’s of Air Travel.  I have three more, three don’ts.

Number Six: This morning, as I was scarfing down a boiled egg before leaving for the airport (an attempt to not succumb to the carbohydrate-heavy smorgasbord of the near-defunct US Airways Club), I was reminded what not-to-do: Board with boiled eggs. Do not do it. I almost did, until I opened the container in which I had stored said boiled egg the evening before. Phew-yyyy! Hence why I scarfed it down in the few minutes I had to get out the door; Ken should be grateful I did this instead of doing so in the car.

Number Seven: Canned tuna fish…I do not know how people eat it. I cannot get past the stench. So, please, do not dare to think it would be nice to bring along such a sandwich for that cross-country haul.

And, Number Eight? Never smack gum. Surely, you can silently chew a piece. But, smacking and cracking it? No! Even if you are in row number one.

What are the nasty habits of others you cannot endure up in the air?

A Time Out

Before I saw this article in The New York Times, I had been considering a self-imposed time out from social media. Then yesterday, I maxed out. I took a step back and realized how obsessed I am with keeping up with you all and everything that’s it. I do not want to miss a beat. You all are so interesting.

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Stop and smell the Spider Lillies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, as Brazilians say, “Chega!” “Enough!”

With you as my witness, I hereby vow to take a thirteen-day break from all online things social beginning today. Almost TWO weeks. No checking in, no posting photos, no liking what you’re up to, no tweeting, nada.

It will give you a break, too.

And, no, there’s no deep reason, no one is forcing me, I’m not trying to set a good example. I just want to.

See you in two weeks.

Love,
Carol

 

Benne There?

Christian was bored this morning so he decided to cook up a batch of benne wafers. Go figure. Of course, he included a “super sized” version.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

1/2 c. sesame seeds

1 tbsp. butter

1 c. light-brown sugar

3 tbsp. flour

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and lightly flour some cookie sheets. Put the sesame seeds in a small pan and stir or shake them over moderate heat until they are slightly brown. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between them for the cookies to spread. Bake until just slightly brown, 4 – 6 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheets very carefully while still warm. If they stiffen and are hard to remove, put the cookie sheets back in the oven for 1 minute. Makes about 36 cookies.

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Shooshi

I did it. I took a restaurant reviewer up on a recommendation and dove in. Manhattan is a daunting place–one does not decide what to eat but rather where to eat. It’s definitely not Charleston where there are maybe two or three worthwhile Asian spots. Leaning towards ordering room service, I checked the menu and nearly coughed up my lunch. $19.25 for a grilled cheese??? On my feet went my wide, white, I-am-a-tourist New Balance 940’s, and I headed down 7th Avenue, after a short detour to Central Park, to try my first izakaya.

Even more daunting was knowing what to order…such pressure to fit in, to be cool. So, I asked my new friends at the bar. I’m going back. To Sake Bar Hagi.

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wasabi pork dumplings

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roasted shishito pepper

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the scene

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fried squid legs

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look closely, it’s easy to miss