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Slow Down, Don’t Lead So Fast

Slow Down, Don’t Lead So Fast

Speed is everywhere. Fast cars, high-speed Internet connections, fast food, quickie divorces, “The One-Minute Manager.” We’re constantly told that faster is better. “Instant” is added to product names as often as “New” and “Improved.”

Is faster always better? I doubt it, especially when you’re dealing with people. We may want to get our burger quickly, but who wants only a few moments of someone’s attention? Doctors, for example, are so rushed and overworked some now employ nurses to handle the time needed to get a patient history and discuss symptoms. Since people crave time and attention, alternative practitioners are increasing their impact, often simply because they can offer patients enough time to accompany their treatments. Some of the boom in life coaching is because of people’s need to experience encouraging attention. They’re paying for the coach’s time as much as their expertise.

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Leadership is obviously a people business. Yet today’s leaders are so burdened with other demands many of them find it impossible to give their staff what they want most: informal training, personal attention, time with the boss and careful thought about their needs. Good decisions also demand time for proper reflection and judgment. If there’s an instant answer available, that’s not a decision anyone in a leadership position should need to get involved with.

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That’s why I’ve decided to launch a new website devoted to helping leaders find ways to slow down and create the space they need to do their job properly. Like the movement for Slow Food that’s spread across the world, Slow Leadership is all about regaining the genuine flavor and enjoyment of being a leader. After all, if you’re going to savor your leadership role, you’ll need to feel you’re doing it well. Like instant mashed potato, instant leadership is an artificial creation with neither the taste, the texture nor the benefits of the real thing.

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What do you want from your leaders? The time and reflection needed to make sound decisions — or instant judgments using cookie-cutter thinking? Full attention, helping you develop your potential — or a quick appraisal interview once a year?

It’s time to fight back. Unless people stand up for what they need, the urge to cut costs by limiting time for “non-essential” activities like thinking, developing new ideas and building relationships might be come irreversible.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

It’s also unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

The Fake Inbox Zero

The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

Have zero inboxes.

The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

Stop Faking It

Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

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Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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