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CEOs: Take Time to Take Time Out

This week, Arianna Huffington and Martha Stewart took to the stage at the San Jose Convention Center where they were keynote speakers at the Quickbooks Connect conference.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, to an audience largely made up of owners and representatives from small businesses, both women discussed what they felt were the important attributes of being successful CEOs, with one striking common theme – take time out. It’s been pointed out that this might be hard advice to swallow from two multi-millionaire, high-achieving business people who have the resources to draw on to enable them to step away from the heat for a while, and I’m sure that is the case.

However, I’d also argue that it’s really more about mindset, not just from the point of view of being so fiercely driven to succeed, but because we are so thoroughly – and as it can feel, inescapably – connected through our smartphones, tablets and laptops. To quote Huffington, “Technology can liberate us … or technology can enslave us if we feel we have to be always connected.” And we don’t make it easy on ourselves in casting the technological chains aside. According to the 2014 Deloitte Digital Democracy survey, the number of “digital omnivores” – US consumers who own a laptop, smartphone and tablet is on the rise – up to 37% from 26% in 2012.

Additionally, 90% of these digital omnivores are on social networks, which they check up to a staggering 20 times a day. It stands to reason that if you are on your devices so often, and only one click away from checking work and personal emails, that it’s going to be hard to resist the temptation not to.

Another quote from Huffington’s speech that stood out for me was that “If you are not texting, you are not as important as… [people texting as they walk]… are because you can afford to just walk.” But as CEO of a company where time is essentially the currency we deal in, I think there’s genuine fallibility in being constantly engaged, constantly available. There needs to be time for reflection, for thoughts to form and strategies to be realized. Of course be available for your clients’ needs, but not to what ultimately results in poorer client service. So to echo these two titans of business, I urge everyone to find some time to unplug when you can and to step back in a way that works for you.

As I mentioned, email is one of the chief mischief-makers when it comes to sapping away our online time. This week Google announced a new app called Inbox designed to make email a much more efficient means of communication. Right now – in a move I’m sure will generate both annoyance and interest in the app – it is available via invitation only, before a wider roll-out. Key features include Bundles where things like receipts and bank statements are automatically bundled together, Highlights which, surprise surprise, highlights key information such as flight itineraries and events, and –even brings in useful information from the web that wasn’t on the original message, such as real-time flight information (a feature I’m excited to try). It also has a feature that Google is coining ‘Your to-dos on your own terms’ – essentially an all-singing, all dancing centralized to-do list. Look out for a review in the coming weeks, and if you’re going to be an Inbox user, we’d love to hear what you think of it. For my part, I’m hoping it’s an efficiency enabler and not another distraction app distracter.

 

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