Most things can wait. In fact, most things should wait.

thinking time

How many times have you checked your email today? Which takes priority – the thing that was top of your to-do list at 9am, or the email that just dropped into your In Box? If you’re talking on your landline and your mobile phone rings, what do you do? And if, in the midst of all this, a Skype contact comes online and wants to chat, how do you handle your juggling act? Not so long ago, things were so different. Phones rang unanswered. Inter-office manila envelopes worked their way round the building, from department to department. Memos were typed in duplicate, triplicate and quadruplicate. Letters were posted, and replies carefully composed. ‘By return’ meant a two-day turnaround, not a two-minute one. The world was a slower place – and that gave us time to think.

Welcome to the machine

When did you first discover email? For me, it was 1986. I sat in a friend’s office and she showed me just how technically advanced the company was. On their mainframe, they could send messages within a matter of seconds, as vital information winged its way around the organisation. “Look at this,” she said, her voice brimming over with enthusiasm. She jabbed at function keys (no mice in those days) and clicked her cursor keys. And there it was: cod and chips, roast lamb and nut cutlet – today’s staff-canteen menu, instantly transmitted by my friend’s friend, whose office was around the corner from those unmissable main courses. Food for thought indeed.

Business at the speed of light

Since then, things have moved on a little. Slowly but surely, we’ve become bombarded by inputs. Emails, text messages, RSS feeds. Discussion groups, podcasts and instant messaging. The digital deluge never stops. Until we stop it. Right now, my email program is closed. I’ll open it up when I finish this blog post. And if the phone rings, I’ll let it go to voice mail. I’m no saint – it’s just that I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t focus, I don’t get the job done. One thing at a time. If only others did the same. Ever spoken to somebody who takes a mobile phone call while they’re in the toilet? I have – believe me, you don’t want to go there. Most calls can wait. Most emails can wait. In fact, most things should wait – you’ll have more time to reflect, decide and evaluate. And you’ll come up with better solutions, easier answers and clearer analyses. Take your time. Think about it. Then, think a bit more. You’ll be glad you did. OK. You can check your email again.