Take Control of The Flow of Information

I’ve been talking for years now about taking control of your time choices. I recently had an example in my own life of just how important it is to control the flow of information that can hijack you, and I realized that I am finally listening to myself; perhaps now I can stop wearing the t shirt ‘Take my advice, I’m not using it”.

I recently had a biopsy on a mass that showed up on an MRI. I was told that it would take a week to get the results and as the time approached I was feeling some natural anxiety. The healthcare system that performed the biopsy is one I have used for some years and, at some point I signed up on the health portal where they post appointments, clinical updates, test results etc. More critically, I evidently signed up to receive e mails when new items are posted.

At about 8pm on the evening before I was expecting to hear from my doctor with the biopsy result, I saw two e mails on my iphone telling me that I had test results in my record, one a film and the other a report. My immediate instinct was to go and look at them, but I forced myself to take a time out to think it through before going down a path that would almost certainly have changed the nature of my evening – in one direction or another.

On the one hand, the results could be good and a sense of relief would have flooded over me. On the other hand, what if the report didn’t say that? Would I understand what it actually said or, more critically, what it meant? As I processed all the possible consequences of going and looking, I realized that I’d see a lot of terms I didn’t understand, spend time on the internet looking them up….and probably come away convinced that I’d be dead by the end of the week!

It was something of an emotional crossroads, and a combination of the Time Management and Emotional Intelligence training I give my clients guided me in the right direction. Both these disciplines intersected to help me determine that I would be allowing an outside force to hijack my emotions and waste my time. It still wasn’t easy, and to make it work I had to verbalize a rationale that made sense to my inner voice.

What I realized and sternly told myself was that the results, whatever the report said, were not something I would be able to understand on my own. The written results were only a part of the story and what I needed was somebody (other than the Internet) to interpret them for me. It wasn’t like exam results or college admissions that were essentially a pass/fail, but something with infinite possibilities and shades of grey.

Having thought it through in this way, I was able to put the existence of the report on the Health Portal out of my mind and go ahead with the evening I had planned to have rather than allowing an external force to change it and hijack my emotions and my time. It was an important piece of my personal growth, and I naturally got to thinking how it translated into business life.

I think that it applies to business in two important ways about how to defer the upset until a time when it won’t hijack your emotional state or derail more important activities:  

  • First, you have to be self-aware about the things that affect your mental state. If you think an e mail is bad news, don’t open it immediately; if you think a phone call is an argument, or something that will upset you, don’t answer until you are ready. Don’t let whatever it is hijack your emotional composure until you can deal with it on your terms.
  • Second, don’t let someone else’s timetable dictate to you. Don’t open the email or take the phone call when it first comes in if it is going to distract you from what you were doing. Put it off until you want to deal with it and don’t let it insinuate itself into your timetable and interrupt you from what you had planned to do at that time.

This is difficult because we can’t always compartmentalize our time, but this is one key area where Time Management and Emotional Intelligence intersect, and one where self-discipline will really pay dividends.