Huffpost UK Tech uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Richard Neville Headshot

You Can't Keep Up and Trying Makes You Less Productive

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

We know we get buried under email far more regularly than we get buried under snow, but only one of those occasions brings us a liberating opportunity.

We are naturally inquisitive, social creatures - and the Internet is a suite of tools that we've built to make us even more so. We chat, we email, we record, we annotate, we debate and we diarise. The human connectivity that comes with the Internet is like nothing any biological creature could possibly have evolved to deal with.

Pressure can drive us to do our best work. Those extra endorphins and adrenaline that flood our system when we're psyched can make the difference between mediocre and magical output.

But in the same way that our bodies have evolved to hoard sugar and fat to tide us over in times of scarcity, so do our minds struggle to deal with an excess of stimulus and no possible end in sight. Our tendency is to keep on pushing through, even if there is no other side to break on through to.

Human evolution is much slower than today's pace of technological change. In evolutionary terms, we are still built for fight or flight, but these days we are well out of the forest and focused on mobile phones, shareable calendars and Twitter feeds. This is a whole new world of keeping up.

Exposure to the Internet encourages endless multi-tasking. We have become a civilisation of channel-hoppers. Ongoing projects can be effortlessly held in stasis, while we branch off and make progress on something else. We store files which can be retrieved next fortnight as quickly as they can be found today. We pile up messages in our ever-expanding array of inboxes. We file, we recall, we check in, we carry on.

Especially with the computing power of the Internet on our side, we can do so much. We can keep huge numbers of plates spinning. But do we need to?

Which of your day-to-day tasks will you look back on in a year and still feel was important?

It is only when we find ourselves holed up after a snowstorm, or when we miss a flight, lose a pitch, or even break a leg, that we have to acknowledge that our task list has run away with us. We may instinctively panic. But stepping aside from our normal sequence is important.

Time off. Although everyone can think instantaneously - as fast or faster than any computer - there is more to us than an endless sequence of reactive thoughts.

It sometimes takes weeks or months or even years for people to uncover what they really think and what they really believe. However that happens, one thing is for sure: it will happen at your own pace on your own terms. But it will also be the one opportunity that you really don't want to miss.

It's only when we stop being led that we can think about taking a lead. So while the snow is falling and the spinning plates are crashing around your ears, just relax and take some time to mull it over: What do you really want to achieve?