A friend once told me many years ago that time was her enemy. Maybe more than ever before I now understand what she meant. Like many people, I have a never-ending to do list. There are things that must get done. And there are the things that would be nice to get done. I don’t go to the gym as much as I would like. At times I don’t see my family as much as I should. I could always call old friends or family, read more books, write more, learn new skills or just relax. Some days I choose to do things over what should be the utmost priority, to be sure, but there are other days when there is just no time. There are so many good things to do in life that we sometimes overlook the most critical, putting it off until it may be too late. For those that live busy, hectic lives, life can sometimes feel as if it’s a race against the clock. Today marks the last day of the first half of 2008. I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked so far this year. Before I know it, the year will be gone. Time, indeed, has become my enemy.
Several years ago a professor told me to be cautious of any institution that is not constantly under construction because a lack of construction meant a lack of improvement and potentially money. I have kept his statement in my mind since and believe it has relevance across the board. Let me explain.
Construction, as used in this instance, is the destruction or disposal of existing infrastructure, processes, procedures or tradition while upgrading, evaluating and improving what was in its place. A company may decide to upgrade its technology or procedures, both of which can go far in improving morale and employees’ experience with the company, but if it is also not constantly reconstructing and evaluating how it does business, how management interacts with employees and how talent is attracted and retained, the company will have problems. It’s just a matter of time. Even within my own company, the writing is on the wall, as they say. Failure to reconstruct and improve itself could ultimately be fatal.
Our relationships with our spouses and ourselves must also be constantly under construction with the goal of improvement in mind. In short, maintaining the status quo should be seen as concern, especially when it continues for long periods of time. Change for the better is hardly easy. But it is worth it, especially when that change leads to healthier, more productive companies, relationships, facilities, careers and lives.
It seems there are two different people in this world when it comes to work. There are those that love what they do and spend almost all day doing it. And there are those that treat work as merely a job and the rest of their time is what they live for. Which begs the question: how much focus should be on one’s career? For some, a career is a sense of accomplishment and pride, and perhaps rightly so. For others, it’s merely a paycheck and something to do to keep the lights on while pursuing his or her real dreams and goals. And maybe there are plenty of people in the middle. But as someone focused on his career and wanting to gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from what I do, how much is too much? If my work ever becomes detrimental to my family, shouldn’t that be enough to make a change? Yet, many “professional careers” (medicine, law, finance) expect you to work to the point where it is detrimental to family (not to mention health, hobbies, social life, etc.), at least in the first few years. Such work demands are often viewed as a right of passage and great opportunities. Not surprisingly, few people stay in such positions long. From my experience, even fewer are happy with what they do.
I am still searching for that one position where I can be proud of what I do, make a good living and have the time needed to live a balanced life.Those that have found the secret will tell you that they have never worked a day in their life. They love what they do and happen to be paid well doing it. Why can’t I find something like that?
I read an article earlier this week about how short the average employee’s attention span is at work – an estimated three minutes. I found the article to be true from my experience. Given that my computer is always in front of me, I can’t help to glance over every other minute to see if a new email has come in. Regardless of what I am doing on my computer, a message appears in the lower right-hand corner of my screen when a new email hits my inbox. I usually stop whatever I’m doing and click over to my inbox to open and read the email. Sometimes I may even respond right away, putting aside whatever else I was doing prior to receiving the email. Of course, I check my personal emails at work, the day’s news and my favorite websites as well, adding more to my “to do” list and another layer of distractions to the already busy day. And this is all without making and receiving phone calls, people stopping by my office, and the other meetings and functions I choose to or am forced to attend. It’s a good thing that my work blocks facebook, or I would be checking that occasionally too. (If they were wise, they would block blogs, Linked In, Twitter or any number of time-consuming sites as well; but thankfully they don’t). With all of this going on, it’s amazing that I find time to review those long agreements or get anything else done at all.
To combat distractions in the workplace and put employees back on the path to productivity, new email systems are allowing employees to stop emails from showing up until the user chooses to. For example, I could decide to prevent all of my emails from coming through until I was ready to read and respond to them later in the afternoon. Doing such would prevent the user from constant distraction throughout the morning. But such a distraction-free life would require a change in business culture as well for it to be successful. In an era when people expect almost immediate responses to emails, viewing and responding to emails once or twice a day does not cut it; in fact, it almost seems rude or negligent. At the current pace of business and technology, distractions in the workplace are here to stay.
This post is my 200th blog post since I started writing Sound to Sound under two years ago. I reached 100 posts early last August, meaning that I write roughly ten posts a month. While the frequency of my writing has slowed down the past few months, I am pleased that I have hit the 200-post milestone, especially given that the majority of the world’s blogs are inactive for months at a time. Once I committed to posting frequently on my blog I found that writing ideas often came when I would least expect them to. I’ll find myself somewhere in New York City, at home late at night or even reading a book on the train and all of a sudden an idea emerges or I recall a memory and think, I need to blog about this. When ideas come I send myself an email from my BB with the fleeting thoughts for further exploration later. Such has been the genesis of many of my previous 199 posts. It’s true that some days there is not much to write about and other days I don’t have the time, but I have hardly gone a week without posting something, even if I have forced myself to. As I’ve mentioned on here before, working as a corporate lawyer does not often present the opportunity to write creatively. Fortunately, whether I have any loyal readers or not, my blog does.
One of my interests in which I have absolutely no training and hardly any knowledge of is architecture. Architectural Record and Architectural Digest are always on my must read list of monthly magazines. Each magazine has a different focus, but both are worth browsing through each month to see the best in man-made design and use of space. My interest in architecture and construction design is not new, but it is an interest I do little with other than try to follow what is being built and where. I am fascinated by today’s architects and the cities and public spaces they are building, how such buildings blend in to the surrounding environment and how people use them. The buildings, parks and public spaces that are being constructed in today’s cities around the globe are better and more functional than ever before. If I could, I would travel the globe visiting city after city seeking the architecturally best the world’s cities could offer.
My wife, on the other hand, loves nature and enjoys being surrounded by the great outdoors. As such, we often disagree on where to spend our spare time and where our next vacation should be. Instead of my grand idea of visiting the world’s cities, she much rather visit the mountains, lakes and trails of Mother Nature, arguably the greatest architect ever. And so we try to compromise, but for the most part, I am left to the magazines in the library and bookstores to explore my interest of the cutting-edge of architecture and spatial design.
When Google’s Gmail debuted in 2004 I remember receiving several emails from friends and contacts informing me that their email address had changed to such-and-such at gmail dot com. I never changed my primary email address and continued using the Hotmail account I had grown accustomed to. Looking back, I should have made the change. Instead, I have been loyal to Hotmail, much to some recent frustration. I created my first Hotmail account in 2000 and created another one with a more formal email address in 2003. Most of my contacts have my latter Hotmail account and it has served me well over the years, so much so that to make a global change now would just be a pain.
Since last summer, however, I have been the proud owner of a gmail account and have been pleased with its features. Google’s openness allows one to check gmail on almost any device. I can check my Hotmail on my cell phone, but not my BlackBerry, which is inconvenient. Hotmail’s latest version runs slow on any computer and must be constantly refreshed to receive emails. Gmail, on the other hand, allows one to see messages in real time and groups messages together by subject to minimize cluttering inboxes. Gmail’s chat feature is also a great addition to a web-based email service. I have been using my Gmail account more and more recently and perhaps in time I can transition my main contacts to reach me at gmail dot com, but my hesitation in changing my email address years earlier means that I will be checking Hotmail for years to come.