The following is a guest post by Travis Collier. Travis is a Commissioned Officer in the US Coast Guard and consultant–he examines how why people in organizations aren’t working well, and discovers solutions to get them working together and better.
“The Ping is that little sensation that occasionally prompts me (you) to check my e-mail or my social media accounts.” –Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative
The Ping is insidious. It’s everywhere – in our new iPhone, in our tablet, in our email. At work we cringe at people who always have a screen continuously monitoring their inbox.Where do they find time for their own great work if they’re spending the entire day following someone else’s priorities?
The Ping consumes our life – and while some of it is imposed from external demands, most demands are internal. Take a look at how many social media accounts are in your device of choice. How many hours do you spend playing games or watching TV? How many ways can someone get in contact with you?
Maybe Evernote was right in not having any office phone numbers!
Without realizing it we’ve created an environment where the Ping flourishes. And we can’t be productive when we’re always waiting for that sound, vibration, or flash. Those small moments take away our days. Our greatness comes in how we act in the smallest moments.
But those moments have to be of our own choosing.
When they’re someone else’s choosing they’re not great. They’re routine. They’re someone else’s priorities. That’s what the Ping means. It means someone else needs something from us. Our challenge is to convert the frenzy of the Ping to the focus of our productivity.
“Take the time to create space for yourself and you’ll create the space to make time for yourself.” – Mike Vardy, The Way of The Productivityist Manifesto
This is what drew me here – the Ping and the willingness to break away from its gravity. That’s what resonated with me when I read The Front Nine (especially Mike’s totem and respect for the Green Lantern). Willpower is great, and it’s immensely successful for him. But will doesn’t work for me. Having a strong external locus of control, I’m more easily led by my environment. It’s why my workday slowly descends from leaving at 1600 to leaving at 1800. I’m not more productive…I’m just more susceptible to the Ping.
I use two other powers for my advantage: Rage and Hope.
The Red Lanterns are blinded and driven by rage. I like to say anger, but it’s really rage. Red Lanterns are just living wrecking balls. (But hey, they’re driven!) That’s the potential power of the environment around us: to drive us towards being who we want to be in the world. Some people become great because of what’s within them. Others become great because of what’s around them.
There’s also a sense of rage in myself. When I look at my Five Minute Journal and I see what I’ve left undone, I get a little upset. (Actually, I get pretty pissed off.) Because each time I shift a daily goal back I’ve given ground to someone else’s agenda. I’ve mortgaged my future for mediocrity. And we don’t have much time in our lives to let that happen.
On the other hand, Blue Lanterns are guided by hope. Hope in the future. Hope in everything to being better and becoming better. Hope is gratitude – it’s finding things to be joyous for in our lives and building upon them. Wherever there is space for us to already be great–we take that space and expand.
Hope and rage together remind me of the Stockdale Paradox, which applies because of how we’re crushed by the week and carried through the weekends. As reflected in this quote from Admiral James Stockdale in Good to Great by Jim Collins :
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
So how does this relate to the Ping?
As we become more connected, we also have a diametric need to be disconnected. As we grow more entrenched in our chairs (and yes, sitting causes cancer), we have to stay mobile and energetic to keep us renewed. As much as I hope to be better I know I need to go through a lot to be there.
That’s the heart of productivity for me – hoping through my goals to ship more, but also having the anger and rage to fuel me to keep moving forward. Any day where I don’t move forward is a day where I fall behind. Do that too many times…and the Ping wins.
How do you beat back the Ping?
Photo credit: parsley via SXC.HU