Recently, Slate.com ran a test on who is better informed: newspaper readers exclusively or internet readers exclusively, in its News Junkie Smackdown. The winner seemed to be neither, with both sides wanting and missing the other side’s sources. But as I read the multi-entry series, I realized how tired I felt just from the task of reading the news. I read the news constantly – as do so many of us these days. And I feel that if I miss a story, then somehow I have fallen behind in the universe. Keeping up is wearing me out.
There are other tasks that are wearing us out – I think we are a tired people, collectively. Many of my friends now work as “independents,” perpetually scrambling for the next financial possibility, feeling the pressure constantly. Those who work for large organizations are feeling the pressure also. The next round of layoffs seems to be right around the corner. (How many of us personally know someone who has been laid off?) The strain of the economy seems to fill many with a deepening, underlying, constant uncertainty – about nearly everything. And such uncertainty, such insecurity, is very, very tiring. Not to mention that financial pressures are equally very, very tiring, and many face these on a regular basis.
Are there books to help? I think so. Two that I have read, neither “new’ but both still valuable, are The Power of Full Engagement and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Of course, everyone knows about David Allen’s best seller. An entire industry has been created providing GTD aps for the iPhonie, following Allen’s principles. He is so right that any thing that clutters the life or the mind is burden producing and burden sustaining. Getting it off of the mind and into a place where it can be retrieved when needed is critical to one’s sanity, and energy level. Here are a few key quotes:
• Almost everyone I encounter these days feels he or she has too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done.
• In the old days, you knew what work had to be done – you could see it. It was clear when the work was finished, or not finished. Now, for many of us, there are no edges to most of our projects. Most people I know have at least half a dozen things they’re trying to achieve right now, and even if they had the rest of their lives to try, they wouldn’t be able to finish these to perfection.
• “This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy.” Kerry Gleeson.
• We all seem to be starved for a win.
The other book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, may be less well known, but it is a great and valuable companion volume for Getting Things Done. Consider these quotes:
• We live in digital time. Our rhythms are rushed, rapid fire and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate breadth rather than depth, quick reaction more than considered reflection. We skim across the surface, alighting for brief moments at dozens of destinations but rarely remaining for long at any one. We race through our lives without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go. We’re wired up but we’re melting down. We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee, and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work…, we return home feeling exhausted and often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.
We walk around with day planners and to-do lists; Palm Pilots and BlackBerries, instant pagers and pop-up reminders – all designed to help us manage our time better. We take pride in our ability to multitask, and we wear our willingness to put in long hours as a badge of honor. The term 24/7 describes a world in which work never ends.
• Fatigue has a cascade effect – fatigue leads to negative emotions leads to muscular tension leads to lack of focus/concentration.
• We need energy to perform, and recovery is more than the absence of work.
I realize that we are too busy to read these books about dealing with the stress of being too busy. But these quotes should whet your appetite while reminding us all that the problem of fatigue is real. It will take a lot of effort to become effortless in our work and life and emotional balance.
• You can order synopses of my presentations for both Getting Things Done and The Power of Full Engagement, at our companion web site, 15 Minute Business Books.