There have been reports that have been coming out lately showing that multitasking, an activity often exacerbated by the internet and social media, can be less effective, shorten our attention spans and even affect our relationships. Recently I went to some conference presentations and noticed a difference in my attention span–that nagging feeling that I’m missing information, having to tell myself “you can only check your phone once every 15 minutes.” I decided to go cold turkey for a day–no internet, period. Granted, it was a Sunday, but I gained some insights relevant to life science business planning that i’d like to share.
I started at 7 p.m. Saturday, announcing to the Twitterverse that they should expect to not hear from me for 24 hours. Shortly after I signed off I realized I promised to make a dish the next morning for which I did not have the recipe…get out the old cookbooks! Lesson one was that I rediscovered the usefulness of browsing. I have about 40 cookbooks, several I have forgotten about, and I reacquainted myself with some of them and some recipes I would never have found via a Google search. When we rely on what we think we want, we limit ourselves. I actually found my first Seth Godin book in the ‘new books’ section at my local library. My point? Find ways to ‘browse’ for ideas for your life science business, whether it be books, magazines, or events where you’ll meet people with backgrounds and ideas that may differ from yours. Yes, we have too many meetings, but what about starting a few creative brainstorming meetings over lunch with pizza? Things just happen IRL (in real life) that don’t happen over email–in effect, you’re ‘browsing’ others’ ideas.
The next morning was tough, as I normally begin the day with my smart phone or computer. I was left alone with my thoughts! Lesson two is that time to gain perspective is important. From a business perspective, this is incredibly important. With marketers moving towards social media, with its daily need for content and curation, there is a tendency towards implementing tactics without having a strategy. To combat this, we suggest creating more living documents, such as a Social Media Charter, which can change more frequently than a yearly marketing plan. This way, you’ll have a plan, but be able to make changes on the more rapid scale that social media requires. Additionally, you need to allow your team time to develop and implement social media strategies–don’t just have them incorporate them into their daily tasks. Studies have shown that multitasking takes longer than doing tasks serially. We’ve provided a guide to implement social media in 10 minutes a day to help.
My next challenge came when I was driving to my friends’ new house–no GPS allowed! I found that my road map was still in my car and used it to guide me. Additionally, I discovered that I looked more carefully for landmarks and felt as though I now have more skills to find the house even if I make a wrong turn. Lesson three and parallels to life science business here? Many of us have gotten into the business side of life science because we have natural abilities and instincts in marketing, sales, or management. Today, we can get sidetracked by the many metrics available, for example website analytics, brand monitoring, and key performance indicators. Are you being driven by any of these metrics unnecessarily? Take a step back and talk to your colleagues or customers about what’s important to your business and what direction you think the business should take.
I made it (just barely) to 7 p.m. that Sunday with no internet, it actually was very refreshing. The number of emails that accumulated were minimal, and checking hourly really would have been a waste of time–I really don’t need to be so tied to it! I’ve decided to ‘unplug’ for a half day every week, and to multitask less. Many of my tasks require the internet, so going without it is tough (I can simply switch the wifi off on my laptop if needed), but I can shut off Twitter and email easily enough. I love my Moleskine journal and will continue to have it handy for jotting down notes or drafting blog posts. Off site planning meetings are also in the works for us. Time to gain perspective is rarely wasted, I suggest you do the same. I’ve also heard some companies ban smart phones from meetings. What are your ideas for unplugging?
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