18th century French physician and philosopher Julien Offroy De La Mattrie said, "The human body is a machine that winds its own springs."
One of the reasons I write this column every week is to simply slow myself down, to pause for reverie.
Writing weekly for Inc. Magazine changes my rhythm. It forces me to think new and larger thoughts in the midst of the quotidian. It removes me from the ceaseless concatenation of crisis management in my life and affairs. It allows me to contemplate the forest as well as the trees, the ultimate as well as the penultimate.
Much of my business life has consisted of making choices about which really important thing is most important to tackle today and which crucial matter can wait for tomorrow's to-do list.
The danger of all this busyness is that I become a human "doing" instead of human "being."
I keep a file of clipped articles which look interesting, but I put off for later reading. Recently I came across a yellowing article from the July 24, 2011 New York Times Business Section by Tony Schwartz. Tony avers we need to learn to manage our energy differently, not just our time. He reports the the pressure to stay forever connected and on top of things has taken a toll on the time we instinctively devoted to renewing and recharging. He says, "When fatigue sets in over the course of a day, we all increasingly and unconsciously rely on emergency sources of energy: adrenaline, non-adrenaline, and cortisol. In this aroused fight-or-flight state, our pre-frontal cortex, which helps us think reflectively and creatively, begins to shut down. We become more reactive, reflexive and impulsive."
(For me, the witching hour is 4:00 PM. On many days I become useless and even dangerous at that hour--at my worst, a snarling ill-tempered fool. I've learned to avoid making decisions or having important calls any time between 3:30-4:30 I've discovered I say lots of stupid things around that time--things that unnecessarily damage my business and my life.)
Schwartz points to a study of airline pilots. The study discovered that when pilots get a nap of just 30 minutes in long-haul flights, they experience a 16% increase in their reaction time, in contrast to a 34% decrease in reaction time among non-napping pilots over the course of a flight.
One reason to be cautionary about our miraculous and explosive technology is that technology simply leaves us no time to think where it's ultimately taking us and at what cost. It often leaves us no time to listen to the messages of our body We may not know where we're going, but we're sure getting there faster and faster. (Lord, please stop me before I devolve into a Luddite screed!)
As Captain Kirk says in Star Trek V, "We are lost, but we are making good time." Thanks, Captain Kirk.