There is no doubt about it, we are very much in the age of efficiency. Everything is right there in front of us, at our fingertips (quite literally).
Many people are online all day every day and even now as meeting people “in real life” once more becomes much easier, out screens and our computers connect us to the world.
It’s easy to spend a lot of time moving swiftly from one thing to the next. An e-mail, a Zoom call, writing a report, a conversation on the phone…….whatever your day is built up of. It can all be quite slick and efficient. No time wasted at all. But that isn’t always a good thing.
In particular I’m thinking about all the meetings we all attend. The barriers to getting to them have been moved (aside from clicking on the right link and having the right tech!). The obstacles to finding time in the day to actually get to a meeting aren’t there. But then neither is the the space and time to bounce ideas around, to procrastinate, and to think. The missing bits are those faffing times in between meetings where you have to actually go somewhere to get to see someone – so much thinking happens whilst you are pondering, day dreaming, doing something seemingly unproductive. And even if you are not actively thinking, your brain needs to wonder a bit.
These slick transitions make it look like we are all being enormously efficient and highly productive. But is this effective?
While we might be turning up to things and taking part, it is easy to see how this way of doing things could somehow detracts from our investment in it. It seems like we don’t always stop to think so carefully about what we are doing – inviting everyone to a meeting they don’t perhaps need to attend, e-mailing the whole world, signing up to Webinars we probably aren’t that interested in. It’s entirely possible to sit in a meeting with your camera off, and not take anything in, to loaf. No one will know except you.
So in order to build in some buy in to these meetings, perhaps we need a bit of disruption to the flow.
Building in some time to amble and ponder.
One of the obvious things is to create extra time around your meetings (finish them at 11.53 not 12 so you have a few minutes before your next meeting), and to create less in the first place, don’t squeeze them all in together, accept less meeting invitations and to generally be more careful with your time. You can build in a walk, create time for a virtual coffee, even work online together with a Zoom room open (without actually having a meeting). Many of these things are becoming common in team working nowadays.
But then you actually have to invest a bit in doing this to make it work. And it will only really work if everyone in the team is doing it and if it becomes part of the way you do things.
One of the harder things is to perhaps create some ground rules and guidelines, and some enthusiasm for not continuing to work in this hyper efficient but potentially not very gratifying way. Try to have some conversations with your team members about how to rediscover that thinking time so that it is not a luxury but part of your team norms and culture. Consider how you can create some gaps, and some spaces. Make some breathing room to think. Perhaps you could ask:
What is the best way to help your mind to wonder?
It might seem like a strange thing to ask given that we spend our lives trying to focus, but it would be really interesting to see what you come back with.
What have you tried with your team?