• Paul W. Smith

One More Thing


Everyone loves a good saying. Aphorisms – those terse statements instilled with a modicum of truth – are a popular part of our language. The term originated with Greek physician Hippocrates who once aphorized, “To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.” Ironically, he is also regarded as the Father of Medicine. The more aphorisms are used, the more credibility they accrue.


It is widely known that actions speak louder than words, he who hesitates is lost, and if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. It is reassuring that a barking dog never bites, and that absence makes the heart grow fonder.


Our careers are guided by the belief that all that glitters is not gold, that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, and that all things come to those who wait.

In business as in life, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.


There is one pithy bit of wisdom that has always perplexed me - “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” I suppose the implication is that busy people are also marvelously capable people who will tackle whatever comes their way. These mythical superhumans may be juggling 10 things but can always handle 11. If they are busy, they must be good at being busy, and have no problem with being busier. I am not convinced.


Many of the busy people I know tend to prioritize haphazardly, playing a virtual game of “Whack-a-Mole” with their lives. This frantic approach leaves self-care – therapy, vacations, happy hour with friends – at the wayside. Adding more moles will only hasten the inevitable burnout.


Once work-life balance became a thing, music, meditation, alcohol, and other distractions gained favor as a way to block out all thoughts of work during “life” breaks. While such redirection may sound healthy and efficient, it can squelch the power of the unconscious mind, which often is a wonderful source of creative thinking and problem solving. For me, solutions to problems often magically appear during these block out periods. The more overwhelmed I feel, the more likely I am to miss out on the hidden power of my drifting mind.


There is an undeniable tendency in our society to admire busy, presumably productive people. These are the folks who got promoted and ascended to the C-suite in all the various businesses I have worked for. This sets the bar high for the rest of us, and I can’t help but become a bit self-critical when I start to feel overwhelmed. Other people can handle this, so why can’t I? I have only one message for the person whose focus becomes even more acute when given that 11th task – I will never be like you.


When I am overcome with tasks, my personal coping strategy is quite simple – I either flail about wildly and inefficiently or I curl up in the fetal position on the floor. My bandwidth for cognition and emotional wellness is destroyed. Striving for thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and self-reliance is cast aside and I begin to overthink, try to do everything myself, and become overly picky about pointless details. Stopping to pet the dog or smell the roses is a bothersome distraction, and I miss opportunities to replenish my emotional reserves.


Perhaps there actually are members of the human race who, unlike me, do not get overwhelmed by taking on just one more thing. All I can say is...


If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Author Profile - Paul W. Smith - leader, educator, technologist, writer - has a lifelong interest in the countless ways that technology changes the course of our journey through life. In addition to being a regular contributor to NetworkDataPedia, he maintains the website Technology for the Journey and occasionally writes for Blogcritics. Paul has over 40 years of experience in research and advanced development for companies ranging from small startups to industry leaders. His other passion is teaching - he is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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