By: Thomas Carson
3 Habits to Help Respond to Stimuli
On New Year’s Day in 2007, an Adam Air plane went down in the Indian Ocean and all 102 souls on board were lost. This story has stayed with me for 15 years because of the findings of the investigators, who concluded that the pilots became so involved in trying to help troubleshoot a glitchy navigation system (not a life-threatening issue at the time) that they forgot to fly the plane. What a terrible way to learn the value of not getting distracted from your primary responsibilities!
I thought of the airplane while reading, “Is Collaboration Getting Out of Hand?” by Adrienne Selko in EHS Today. My initial response before even reading the article was, “Absolutely”. As employers we are trying to ensure that our remote and home-based team members are actively supporting each other at levels that would have seemed intrusive before COVID. As employees, attempting to respond constructively to a barrage of media accounts detailing the emotional stress endangering our colleagues in remote work, we are all too willing to jump in to help, whether we are useful or not.
The article quotes author Rob Cross as saying, “We endure a volume, diversity and velocity of collaborations that place an unprecedented tax on our time and brains.” Yup – that sounds right. A friend describes his days as trying to perform delicate surgery with one hand while playing “Whack-a-mole” with the other.
All of this brings home a common theme to me: As with many aspects of life, we can control how we respond to the stimuli around us. We can choose how and when to engage with the demands on our time. We most certainly cannot accept every invitation, direct or implied, to engage. Taking just one seemingly trivial example, I used to pride myself in always responding to emails, even if just to say, “No interest at this time, but thank you.” During the world of COVID, when every salesperson on the planet started learning LinkedIn solicitation techniques, even my midwestern desire to be courteous was overwhelmed. I now rarely even look at unsolicited emails as they are dispatched to the trash bin.
Here are three habits I have cultivated to help me manage my time and stress, offered here in the spirit of collegial goodwill:
- Just because someone finds their way to my door, I don’t have to invite them in for a drink. Business development techniques have become more sophisticated, and by extension, more intrusive. Many do a great job of eliciting curiosity, compassion and guilt. They are still just sales pitches – if you are not buying, don’t burn your time on these.
- When somebody asks for the time, I don’t explain how a watch works. Put another way, don’t over-complicate your participation in the many encounters you have through your day. Keeping it simple saves time.
- When I see that somebody genuinely has a need, I take the time to help us both evaluate if I am really the best choice to help or if it will be more productive to find someone who knows what they are doing. I might be able to stop the bleeding (and I would do my best), but long-term care may be best left to an expert in that filed.
So thank you to Ms. Selko for her timely reminder that managing your commitments can manage your time, which can reduce stress.