Roundabout 3 years back, I was about a year into a new job that was intense, exciting yet in some ways deenergizing. I say deenergizing, because inspite of having packed days doing important and impactful stuff towards making our organization stronger, I was going to bed at night with a lot on my mind and ideas, that I didn’t have the time to think about. I was in a new country, trying to absorb everything the new experience and the job threw at me and inspite of doing a lot I was left feeling : still so much to do, but where’s the time?
Time was increasingly becoming a defining factor of the unease.
It was somewhere this time, I had my initial exposure to MyAnalytics and my personal dashboard. I was astounded, to say the least:
I mean, on one hand seeing my daily working behavior translated into a reflective and insightful analytic was highly fascinating, on the other it was a stark diagnosis of my unease (which was unnerving):
It screamed one huge insight:
My time wasn’t mine!
- using a lot of time ‘attending’ meetings and ‘responding’ to mails
- borrowing more time from my family to ‘attend’ more meetings and ‘respond’ to more mails
- not having enough (any) time for my own reflection, learning, thoughts, ideas and experiments
I realized, clearly the #3 was hurting me immensely. Motivation happens to different people differently. To me intrinsic components of feeding my curiosity, learning and creativity (of exploring new ideas to build solutions) has always been a key motivating factor . And my inability to do so was contributing to the prevailing unease.
In their popular book Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (2008), Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein suggested that if a particular unfortunate behavioral or decision making pattern is the result of cognitive boundaries, biases, or habits, this pattern may be “nudged” toward a better option by integrating insights about the very same kind of boundaries, biases, and habits into the choice architecture surrounding the behavior – i.e. the physical, social, and psychological aspects of the contexts that influence and in which our choices take place – in ways that promote a more preferred behavior rather than obstruct it.
The dashboard acted as a mirror and a ‘nudge’ towards making some immediate modifications to my choice architecture:
- Opt out of some meetings: which I was part of – either because it was there on my calendar or because of my hidden #FOMO acting up
- Get creative about my email management: creating a specific rule of channeling all my Cc mails into a different folder and attending those only twice a day (2 periods of 30 mins) – assumption being, if I was to act on any email, I need to be in the To and not Cc (remarkably, this cleared off a substantial chunk of my email time)
- Clearly define my thinking hours / focus time (8 – 10 hours a week) – this was non-negotiable, to enable me do my learning, reading, planning, thinking, ideation or deeper diagnostic activities, needed to develop my expertise and readiness overall
- Reduce my after hours work
While these modifications were minute ones (no rocket science there), the impact was significant. I could immediately feel a reduction in clutter, helping me shift my share of time from transactions to transformation, which was more impactful both for the organization and self. Also, these were just starters to further modifications that I would go onto make ahead, to gain more control over my time.
Recently, when I listened to this little segment of a conversation conducted by Charlie Rose with Bill gates and Warren Buffett, it reminded me of my little moment of truth:
Bill’s words captured my experience aptly:
“…you control your time. And sitting and thinking may be a much higher priority …. It’s not a proxy of your seriousness, that you’ve filled every minute of it…. ”.
A massive insight gained, an important lesson learnt, and an essential behavior shift activated to gain more control over my time and create more energy for myself.
All triggered by that little nudge from MyAnalytics!