A Generation of Franticism

Franticism. The theory of franticness.

Not really a word in the dictionary (yes, I looked it up), but something great to add to my selly-ictionary.

We live in a generation that’s in a constant state of Frantic, and I mainly noticed this due to my own slight tendencies towards the Frantic. We’re surrounded by constant noise, a chaotic orchestra; where technology is slowly becoming means to an end and an accomplice to insanity.

Yes, Frantic.

In 2011, I’ve resolved to not be eaten alive by the Frantic- but to overcome and kick the crap out of it so it no longer rules my life. The Frantic causes anxiety, impedes the ability to work effectively… hell, it just makes me a basket case. NO MORE.

In the spirit of a question and answer post, let’s look at some common problems and solutions to the Frantic that makes us feel like we’re on a carousel 100 feet in the air.

PROBLEM:

We live in a reactionary state of mind, as opposed to the much sought after proactive state of mind. We are automatically responding to every distraction that comes in:

Email- because OF COURSE every one seems to be urgent.

Texts- because OF COURSE they’ll get mad if you don’t answer right away.

Tweets- because OF COURSE you can’t possibly live without reading that article that got shared RIGHT this moment.

Facebook- because OF COURSE your friends can’t possibly execute what their status messages say they’re doing until you read it. Somewhat of a “does a falling tree make a sound if we’re not around to hear it?”

Will the Internet keep moving if we don’t react to it? Yup. And guess what- it probably won’t even care that you didn’t hit “retweet” or “reply” or leave some stupid response under a status message.

SOLUTION:

You need uninterrupted time to really work efficiently- with minimal distraction. If you’re always in a reactionary mind set, you can never really tackle what’s on your beloved To-Do list (because I know, deep down, you really want to.)

How do we curve this? Check your mail once every half hour. I know this might be tough for some of you (it’s REALLY tough for me, seeing as I work in digital marketing, and the majority of my work actually comes in via email) but generally, if it’s a really urgent email, someone in your office will also ping/IM you- or at least call your extension if your company isn’t down with digital communication via instant messenger/iChat/gTalk.

When you’re ALWAYS responding to emails, more things naturally build up. But are these things urgent? Do they immediately need to be made top priority? Usually no, but the problem is, we THINK they do- therefore dropping the progress we’re making on our current project in order to solve the crisis that comes through email.

PROBLEM:

Our To-Do list becomes an everything list- cluttered and scary- making it impossible to tackle. It causes anxiety just by looking at it. We then get to the crossroads of the Frantic which we are unknowingly going to give in to, whether we like it or not.

SOLUTION:

One of these:

This little baby is an Action Book- one of the paper products of the Action Method. There’s tons of sizes, and a special way to use them. If you’ve followed me before, you’ll know I’m a big advocate of Making Ideas Happen- an amazing and transforming book by Scott Belsky.

In fact, I wrote a super long blog post a while back about pushing productivity (taking key points from the book and talking about them) which was very helpful and made a lot of people understand why this book was so awesome. But, I digress. I’m totally getting off topic (Frantic!)

What makes me loyal to the action method paper products, as opposed to using the beloved and widely used Moleskine, is that this particular method employees the use of many ways to keep yourself on track. There’s a section for actions steps in the sidebar- meaning things that you need to tackle and accomplish immediately. First priority. There’s a back-burner section and an area to write notes in.

I use mine for not only my tasks, but for meetings and daily notes. As the problem above states, it gets over saturated. As you can see, I definitely get some use out of it. So what’s the solution? WELL, there’s another little book I use called the Action Cahier- a cute little pocket sized action book with the left side of the cahier for writing, and the right side for tasks. Very compact, conducive to ONLY tasking yourself out and not being maniacal with your notes.

If you find your main book is getting saturated- make a separation. Get another small book ONLY for tasks, so when you need to focus without meeting notes or other distracting things, use it.

PROBLEM:

We open up our email and it causes instant anxiety. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand when everything floods into my inbox. I can’t stand when I have unread messages. I can’t stand when things don’t go where they need to. I can’t stand a messy inbox. I can’t stand when I can’t find anything.

It puts me in an instant state of Frantic.

SOLUTION:

FILTERS! FILTERSFILTERSFILTERS! Filter everything you need to. You know what’s most important- when emails show up in less important folders, ignore them for a little while. If they show up in your urgent folder, check them out but leave them unread so you know to get back to them later.

There’s also something called “quick links” in Gmail. If you enable this particular labs feature, you’ll have a little box in your email that allows you to “quick link” email to it for fast reference. You can also change the name of the quick link to something easy to recognize.

Also, take 10 minutes at the end of your day to organize and prioritize what’s urgent. This makes for a happy inbox in the morning, and a happy you.

Also, if you have tasks coming into email, you can also use your Gmail tasks box to quick link your email into a task. When you click the task, it’ll instantly reference your email. OR, just go old school with a post it note or To-Do list like meeeeee.

PROBLEM:

You’re trying to work on a project and you keep getting little distractions (IMs, meetings,tweets, texts, phone calls, emails, whatever) and it’s making you feel like you’re being pulled in all directions. You can’t concentrate. Once again, you’re thrown into reactionary mode.

SOLUTION:

If you’re in a creative field especially, you need time to work where you’re not interrupted. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t happen in an office- most of us in the working world generally aren’t allowed to work from when we need to, where we can really dig into what we need to without distraction, unless your company is okay with telecommuting.

The only solution I’ve found to this (aside from looking crabby and making people not want to talk to you as part of your secret plan to get uninterrupted work) is to actually block off time on your calendar that your colleagues look at. Treat it like a meeting. Don’t let anything get scheduled there and throw up an away message on your chat. In the end, you’re responsible for your OWN work- do what you need to do to get it done.

PROBLEM:

Your brain is everywhere. You’re constantly thinking about everything. You thought multi-tasking made you awesome but suddenly it’s killing you. You’re causing yourself anxiety.

SOLUTION:

We all get anxious at work. We’re under pressure to perform. We’re under pressure to provide results. We’re under pressure to work in an office where we can’t necessarily leave to get some alone time to work in peace and quiet. We’re under pressure to help everyone who needs help. We all face it- it’s part of growing within your career and we need to learn how to manage these things.

I can feel when I get anxious. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in the car… thinking… and all of a sudden, I feel like there’s tons of things I need to solve RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE that put me in a state of Frantic. I catch myself. I breathe. I tell myself, it’s not going to kill me to calm down and get it done some other time than right this very minute and that I’m only human.I’m totally down for an all night work session if I need to- but sometimes it just isn’t possible.

Approaching these things in a calm state of mind is much more conducive to actually getting it done than attacking it without a plan.

Take a moment, breathe and think. It’s worth it for your sanity (and so everyone around you doesn’t want to throw you out a window). People can feed off your own anxiousness so it’s important (especially if you’re leading a team) to stay cool and collected (even though, inside, you may not feel that way).

PROBLEM:

Always being plugged in. Our bodies are practically hard wired into the internet.

Can you find something without Googling it? When did Google become both a noun and a verb?

Can you hold a conversation in real life? Can you speak full sentences without wishing you could erase it and retype it? Do you listen to others, and not just talk about yourself like a little narcissist? The problem with our generation is we’re constantly connected and sharing- which always leaves us feeling like something is doing on without us knowing.

Which is just silly.

SOLUTION:

Set some time for yourself where you unplug. If you’re reading a book (an actual, real life book?! Not a Kindle?! Yes.) don’t start grabbing at your phone every time you hear an email come in.

If you’re out to dinner, don’t interrupt it to check your phone. Your email will still be there at the end of dinner, and your date/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband won’t be pissed off at you, either. Win-Win.

If you can’t unplug every night due to the demands of work (and hey, it happens.) choose one night where you’ll unplug completely, and leave yourself available other nights. You can even let everyone in your office know you’re unplugging so they won’t hold it against you when you don’t answer a late night email that you’re normally all over.

So, I think that’s all for now. I actually want to go read a real live book now (they do exist- even though nowadays seeing a book is like spotting a Do-Do Bird in the wild) so I’ll catch you next time.

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  • http://theadventuresofdoboy.com Do Boy

    Hey,nnI found another solution that helps with the focusing, don’t know how to implement if but if you can find a way so you are working for an hour separate from everyone else you work with, it is surprising how much you can actually get done in that time.nnI used to be on a schedule that meant that I arrived an hour before my bosses, in that time I could check my e-mail, sort out my day and even get a few important things out of the way. The best part was when a Boss would come in and I’d be able to say I’ve done 2-3 things that they had e-mailed me last night.nnNot everyone works on weird schedules like mine though, don’t know how you could change it.