Time management and “Attention Management” efforts are easily defeated when too many tasks confront us at once.
I once learned an anecdote suggesting that’s exactly why lion tamers use chairs, holding the seat of the chair or stool and pointing the legs at the lion. Do lions have some inordinate fear of chairs? Nope, that’s not the problem. The problem they have is that they get overwhelmed by the four legs. It’s just too much information for them to handle. They try to focus on all four legs at once, but they can’t. So they become distracted, overwhelmed, and passive.
Similarly, when we try to focus on too many things at once, we become overwhelmed and less productive.
Whether you’re an executive in a big corporation or a solopreneur, you probably have exactly the same problem. Most of us have piles of paper reflecting jobs that need tending to, pages of unread emails reproducing in our inboxes, phone calls yet to be made and blogs and other social media with embarrassingly old dates on them. This could be due to the fact that attention management is not being effectively practiced in our office and our organizations.
The pile of old work to be tackled produces a stressed out, overwhelmed, drowning feeling that has a paralyzing effect on your productivity.
When you sit down at your desk and you think to yourself, “What do I need to do now?”, the sheer number of potential answers is completely overwhelming. It probably causes you to retreat into some sort of busy work. You retreat into a state where you spend all of your time doing things that are easy, familiar, and don’t require a lot of thought.
For most people, this means email. It’s just so much easier to go look at new business coming down the pike than try to figure out what to do about the pile of old business. Like the lion, we’re reacting, and our reaction is to retreat.
As long as we don’t have a system in place to manage all the inputs coming our way, we’re faced daily with what I’ve learned to call Lion Syndrome: the passivity brought on by having too much to think about. And the old tasks continue to either pile up or get done at the last minute in a pouring rain of stress.
When we have an hour, or heck, 30 minutes to get something done, we need to easily and painlessly be able to answer the question: “What do I do need to do now?” And being able to do this easily requires that we have a system in place to archive that information, a workflow management system.
With a New Year starting, it’s a great time to resolve to overcome lion syndrome and take action that will put you back in control. This means utilizing systems of organization and action that really work. Keep reading, and step by step, we’ll overcome Lion Syndrome.
To learn more about productivity, and managing emails, read my books, From To-Do to Done and The Happy Happy.
photo by Eric Kilby