We’re now into what was once commonly referred to as the “dog days” of summer, when once upon a time, things seemed to slow down for a spell. Even 10 years ago, it still seemed like the summer was a time when most folks tended to downshift a little, when lots of your friends and neighbors—even business contacts—left the professional world behind and took vacations.
No one ever seemed to be working in the month of August. Heck, I remember when in some cases, peoples’ vacations lasted as long as two weeks.
Ponder that for a second: There was a time when taking a two-week vacation from your job was actually possible.
At least where I live and work (this is New York, after all), those days are long gone. We now live in an age in which we’re all so connected to our mobile devices that we’re expected to respond to anyone and everyone within a moment’s notice, when work e-mails pile up in our inboxes so quickly that if we don’t constantly swim against that tide, we’re drowning.
Agents and brokers feel this pain; long since passed are the days when you had the luxury of responding in a week or so to a coverage question via mail, or even within days of a phone call; those expectations have changed drastically with the evolution of mobile. One very successful longtime agent (whom I interviewed for an upcoming profile) and I were recently discussing how these days, if a professional doesn’t answer our question within a day, including our insurance agent, we can actually start to wonder whether they’re dead.
Attention spans have suffered drastically, my own included. I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a complete slave to my phone. If I have more than 10 seconds where I’m standing still and not actively engaged in something, my iPhone’s out. In an elevator? Bam, I’m looking at it. In a cab? Boom, it’s out before I even consciously think about it. Got a few seconds to kill before a meeting? Hmm, how many people “liked” that Facebook post I made this morning? Let’s have a look!
Which is wrong, and I know it is. And I’ve come to realize that the faster we all go, the harder we work and the more hardwired we are, the less we actually think. We don’t grant ourselves the mental silence in which to do so. And in all seriousness, that has to change, because we all can’t go on like this. Nor should we.
I recently had the great pleasure of hosting a panel on preparedness for natural catastrophes for a video series being developed by Fortune magazine’s content group. My job was to ask questions and drive the conversation on camera with four heavy-hitting, fast-answering panelists, including AIG President/Global Property George Stratts. In doing so, I had to read the script from a combination of notes on index cards and on a teleprompter—and I relied on a handy trick I started using about a year ago. Whenever I have to read or recite anything before an audience, I have to remind myself to do one key thing lest I risk tripping over my own words.
Once I did, the task became considerably easier.
How many times lately have you been unable to recall a piece of information that would previously have come very quickly to you, and literally after less than 10 seconds you just give up? If you slow down and take a breath, however, it’ll come to you faster than you think.
I’m not anti-technology by any stretch of the imagination; I am, however, pro-thought, and there’s a balance there that we could all be more mindful of, especially when dealing with insurance clients. These aren’t numbers; they’re people. People who are trusting you with their coverage needs. They’re paying you to be mindful for them, and you can only perform well in that capacity if you eliminate some of the background noise and concentrate on how you can best serve them.
I’m trying to adopt this motto in my own day-to-day, and I encourage you to try it. Will it reduce the number of e-mails in our inboxes? No. But I guarantee it’ll make you more mentally equipped to deal with the workload when your brain isn’t traveling at 100 miles per hour, every second of the day.