I thought that it would be interesting to post an excerpt from a live interview I did recently with a Google executive. She is clearly very successful, has advanced in her career and with all of that, struggles like we all do, to manage the tsunami of information bombarding her every day. I love what her take away "strategy" is for managing it all, so I wanted to share it with you.
Amanda: I manage a team of client facing sales people, four of them. And I’m responsible for seeing them grow as individuals, represent our product, grow their relationships with our clients and first and foremost insure that they hit very aggressive revenue targets.
And that’s me as a coach and often stepping in as a player to try to help secure senior level relationships and help tackle problems that they have internally. So it’s a combination I would say about 60% managing a team and then 40% working on my own initiatives within the larger organization.
Me: You are busy bee! Okay. So in all of this, what would you say is your biggest distraction at work these days?
Amanda: You know working in the bleeding edge of high technology in an industry for online advertising which is so fast paced and emerging, it’s rough. There is a flow of literally hundreds of emails inbound that you need to process somehow. So that’s one thing. The email and IM is the main means of communication. I would say 70% email, a lot of instant messenger and then video conferences and face to face meetings and barely any phone calls.
Even in meetings with people you still want to check your mail. You have your computer. Everyone is taking notes digitally now so then your screen is up and then you’re getting IM questions and conversations with people even while you’re taking notes.
I am always one click away from checking my email while someone is else is speaking.
Me: So on average, how many would you say you get a day?
Amanda: Literally hundreds. And there is a difference between quality email, the email list, news groups or industry trades etc.
Me: You’re getting bombarded.
Amanda: You’re getting bombarded especially with the cc's!
Me: Like how many?
Amanda: You know, more than a hundred. The majority of emails are just cc’d on email lists from other groups for awareness. And then there is inbound industry information or people just forwarding from an FYI standpoint.
Me: Perfect. So tell me about some strategies you use to manage all of that since you are clearly very successful.
Amanda: How do I keep my head above water everyday? It takes a lot of time. You know you wake up in the morning. You just read and delete a lot of things.
Me: So read and delete.
Amanda: Read and delete and filter. And sometimes I try to have a filter on my email. Trying to keep my inbox as quality as possible knowing that I’m still occasionally checking the filter list as they come in even though they’re not in my inbox.
Me: So how would you describe your relationship with you and your inbox these days?
Amanda: There’s the list of perpetual emails to respond to that really never get responded to. And sometimes I keep saying I’ll do that tomorrow, I’ll do that tomorrow. And those just sit in there as a reminder.
There are some things that I really want to read. I’ll intend to get back to it later. I never do. Some people try to delete a lot of things from their inbox. I don’t. I sometimes have a thousand emails in there. But the ones that are probably older than my top 30 probably I should just mass delete.
But they are on my wish list of things that I really should have done but I just really not got around to. Now because I have been successful and am well regarded by my peers and get good evaluations and hit all my objectives from my manager, apparently that system is working.
So I kind of stack rank my priorities and hey if I don’t get to it, I’m not fired. But it’s a symbol and a reminder of all the things I want to be doing and all the things I want to be involved with is right there staring me in my face kind of laughing at me cause I don’t delete.
Me: I hear you clearly say I’m smart. I have my job. I get great reviews. I know what I’m doing. So even though I'd like to be doing this differently it’s inhuman to even think about doing it all. Has there been, can you think of a time where there was something really critical in this whole system that got overlooked and impacted you very negatively because you were so inundated?
Amanda: No! You know it’s kind of like you know what you need to do to get done. You need to know your boss, know your manager and their clearly defined expectations of you. Clear communication trumps email. You know the "perception is reality" thing.
I could spend time on a lot of unimportant things that my manager may or may not care about or I could just do what I know she cares about. You just have to know how to be a great juggler!
Me: So what’s all this costing you?
Amanda: A lot of emotional turmoil. That’s the cost- personal time and stress and anxiety. I’m anxious because I’m always thinking about all the things I want to do and all the things I need to do and they’re really in conflict. And that's what happens when you’re a creative ambitious person that is on a growth trajectory. Yeah. There’s real manifestation of the anxiety and stress.
Because it’s a little addictive like the inbox emails, what’s coming up next? Keep refreshing the inbound. It’s that little shot of adrenalin that’s talked about a lot where endorphins are released and pleasure sensors are stimulated.
So the cost is always being on and wired, hard to slow down. And even when I’m off, in my head it’s hard to remove because they are the things I should be doing. I’m not reading as much as I want. Not reading as many books but that just come from personal choice.
Me: I’m thinking within that whole paradigm you’re just talking about if you could recreate it and eliminate something to make it a little bit less stressful, what would that be.
Amanda: Letting more things slide. Understanding that I’m not going to be on top of everything and being okay with that. That could probably return an hour to my day.
So you see ... many of us are in the same boat. Amanda's story is probably familiar.
It's all about doing the very best we can, staying in communication, having realistic expectations of ourselves and figuring out at least one simple thing you can do for yourself to mitigate the stress and anxiety. Obviously it will be different for each of us and incumbent upon each of us to do something, anything.
If you identify and are ready to stop living like this for one more day and want to get clear about your one thing, reach out for a no-obligation conversation. I'd love to hear from you!
My best, Coach Nancy