van Schouwen Associates

A delicate balance between efficiency and exploration

Posted by Michelle van Schouwen

You are SO busy.

You find yourself deleting every incoming email that isn’t absolutely necessary to read. Maybe it has become your policy to do so.

You’ve become great at saying no – to every committee, volunteer opportunity, maybe even every industry podcast.

You have lunch at your desk.

You put off meeting the person from the company or organization down the street (or across the state) who thinks you may have working synergy. Hey, you don’t even take the phone call.

The fact is, you may save yourself valuable minutes every day.

But you, and we all, have lost something, too, and that is the freedom to stretch your mind and enlarge your base, grow your idea bank and enrich your network of people, ideas and opportunities.

When I started van Schouwen Associates way back in 1985, it was still relatively easy to get a meeting with a prospective client, even if the time wasn’t right to do business. People were comfortable talking for a few minutes, and holding out the possibility that they might someday work together – or not. They read materials sent to them – even, sometimes, direct mail flyers! They accepted phone calls.

Now, many people find themselves the recipients of too much of nearly everything… from emails, texts, calls, and social media alerts to demands on time, talents and resources. In many professional disciplines, we’re expected to do more with less, respond faster, create better results, and to avoid mistakes and waste, at all times and at all costs. It’s hard even to take a vacation day “unplugged.”

But… again. We’ve lost something. It would be great to make room, talk with different people, listen to new ideas, have contact with groups from which we may learn, or may just enjoy.

Here’s a proposal: Where you can, and where it may add some value or color (to your day or your life), I urge you to open the door, read the email, listen to the podcast, attend the meeting, or agree to volunteer. Create the time to explore new ideas, new paths, new relationships. Work and life can be a little broader and richer… even if it is less efficient by a small factor.