Life in six-minute increments

The Lunch & Learn example of members having to work to carve out time for education has been heard at a number of events this year. I thought I had an original idea about “living in six-minute increments” when I settled on that number as the amount of time I needed to complete just one more task –make a phone call, send an e-mail, or get one item off my desk. But searching for this phrase on the Web returned several blogs, mostly from young attorneys who are dealing with the reality of breaking down their day into six-minute billing increments (see this perspective on the woes of hourly billing).

They’re not alone.

I attended two different time management sessions at conferences this year where the speaker  discussed strategies for gaining control over your day by identifying and leveraging what was previously down time — listening to publications in your car, or knocking out “just one more thing” on what were formerly very short breaks in the action. But does this kind of multitasking really make us more efficient? The clincher was a speaker who advised us to carve out six minutes each day to do something that advanced our highest level dreams. That’s when I said “Enough!” – if we can only devote six minutes a day to what’s most important, that’s criminal.

We heard this message loud and strong at some of our conferences this Spring. At the Ohio Accounting Shows, 20-minute breaks allow members to take advantage of other services at the show, including visiting sponsors and member benefit stations. More than ever, members are finding that 20 minutes is just long enough to find a corner and open a laptop. Having that flexibility is great, but what do the growing numbers taking advantage of it indicate about our balance as a profession? Talking with some members about networking at the shows, one industry executive commented that “I can’t take the day off any more to enjoy an education program. I miss being able to visit with fellow members while I’m here, but I have to use that time to keep things moving at the office.” Are our work environments requiring this of us, or are some of our expectations self-imposed?

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that efficiency and real-time connectivity can go too far when it stops being a tool and instead prevents us from investing in other priorities important to our development as a person and professional. If we’re to be well-rounded business advisors, we need to invest in relationships and in outside interests that will provide perspective on the diverse world that we serve. As employers, we need to think about making focused time available for our employees for their development.

Personally, for today, I will listen to my favorite talk show instead of using my cell phone in my car, I will talk with a real person about their life during one of my 6-minute breaks, and I will block an entire future development day out of the office where I will unplug (sound like campaign promises?) Join me!


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