Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock

Blog notification: This is one of those self-indulgent rambling posts that I do from time to time. Part-introspective, part-grumpy…

We “office” workiers are probably are working longer and harder than ever before.  We deal with more information from more sources, we juggle meetings, calls, work, e-mail, IM, social media and of course most important of all our commitments to family and friends.

There are many milestones in life and as I’m approaching one myself, I think it’s a great time to stop and take stock of where you are and where you’re headed.

I thought this piece in the New York Time on sensory overload was really interesting.  We’re trying to cram so much into our days that we try and use every minute without taking some time to let your brain coast.

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting down time that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

When’s the last time you sat, took a deep breath and did nothing but let your mind wander? It is surprisingly relaxing.  You find your mind going off in a whole range of different directions.

Personally speaking, it’s something I plan to do more of. 

The challenge is the hectic pace of work, the endless social media consumption, and all the other things you need to get done every day. It would tire you out just thinking about it. Oh… well never mind.

Social media is part of this. It can be a challenge. But a worthwhile one.

The reality for most people is that traditional tasks haven’t gone away, and now – particularly for the communicators amongst us -  we are integrating a whole new set of channels, tools and relationships to our existing day job.

The reality is that something has to give. Everyone is having to make rapid decisions about where to invest precious time.

Being clear about your personal and professional objectives is a great starting point for making those decisions. But again, we probably don’t spend enough time thinking strategically.

We’re too busy running.

I think that’s one of the reasons that the Windows Phone 7 ad has hit a nerve. (Yeah yeah I work for Microsoft) Some people may criticize the ad for one reason or another, but personally, it resonated for me.

Windows Phone 7 Ad–Really?

Your best work comes through combining passion, hard work, great execution, strategy and creativity.

Running faster, running harder, running longer isn’t the answer.

The medicine show

Social media is a case in point.  The signal to noise ratio is high.  Don’t get me wrong, it is incredible to see people sharing knowledge and opinions freely.  You can find incredibly valuable insight and advice across social media (and a lot of funny stuff too), but there’s also a lot of waffle, a lot of unsubstantiated theories presented as fact, and a lot of pseudo-science where there isn’t any.

You’ve got to have a filter on.  The problem isn’t just technology, it’s how you use it.

There is far too much over-engineering going on – presenting pretty simple concepts and practices as something akin to brain surgery.

The basics of successful social media engagement and execution aren’t difficult. It doesn’t require an 6 foot by3 foot color flow chart with 800 components. It doesn’t need to creation of fictional terms which dress up basic knowledge and tactics as though they have been envisaged and developed in a laboratory over 10 years by people who in a previous generation would have been involved in sending metal objects to foreign planets.

Social media is awesome (I may be in the United States too long at this point).  It enables people to connect with one another.  It provides access to an incredible array of information and resources (Twitter), it connects friends and colleagues and let’s you keep up to date with what’s important to you (Facebook).

From a communications perspective, it demands that you combine great traditional Public Relations practices – strategy, great writing, great interpersonal communication, measurement and planning – with a greater focus on person to person communication and a lot of creativity.

It takes time, it takes resources and it costs money. It needs to be integrated with your overall marketing and communications.  It needs to accrue to your objectives and goals.  You need to measure it.

The tools aren’t complex, the rules or engagement aren’t difficult to master or understand.  Anyone who tells you different is lying.

Yes it changes some things.  Where issues or crises were once rare and often unexpected.  Social media creates a perfect breeding ground for mini and major issues.  People present whiplash analysis and opinion as fact.  This is the reality.


So where does that leave us?  Well from my perspective there’s a couple of core things I will (continue to) focus on – all common sense:

Start with what’s important

Although I am not as good at it as I would like, starting with clarity on your personal and professional goals and objectives is key.  What roles do you play? What do you want to do (more of? less of? new?)? What time will you invest? What will you prioritize and more importantly deprioritize.

Take the first step

Look at those objectives and work out what you need to do to achieve them. It may be a project, series of projects or just a couple of tasks.

Monitor, Review and Maintain

Build a habit of reviewing those goals and roles.  Habits are essential.  Critically review your progress and how effective you have been in keeping on track. (I’ve found workflows like Getting Things Done very useful for building an effective review/action system)

Spot your failures

There’s so many potential hazards. Procrastination, avoiding the difficult but important task, not taking a time-out.

Stop and think about your time and how you are spending it.  What can you stop? What can you do more of? Where can you give yourself quality time – either with others or yourself?

Smell the coffee

Stop from time to time.


Take a deep breath.

Close your eyes.

Take a look around you.

Get off the treadmill and live life.


Sermon over.  My thirty ninth year is nearly compete and of course that’s better than the alternative – now there’s positive thinking.

Now you can get back to Twitter.


Posted by Tom Murphy