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Want to go faster? Use the brakes MORE!

November 8, 2008
by Joe Bormel
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Want to go faster? Use the brakes MORE!

Paradox #4017: Disciplines to not be 'CrazyBusy'

Last month, while at my CHIME-related event, I went with a group of friends to Pole Position Raceway, an electric go-kart entertainment center for adults. When I say "

friends," I mean team members from work. And, when I say "

entertainment," I mean hyper-competitive play with very smart opponents, .... ummm, ... I mean


These friends turn out to be much better drivers than me. Here's my data relative to a few of my peers (I'm not expecting you to read it; it is telling when they provide you with statistics for a recreational activity):

So, I came in 6th place, or next to last. Here's the point: The people with the

best lap times also had the lower speeds than me on the challenging parts of the course.

In this case, the number one position person here, let's call him Jim K, had a best lap time of just over 26 seconds. I had a crumby 27.24 seconds; our averages had a 3 second gap. I think you can understand why I'm so emotionally devastated by this that I'm writing about it a month later. (Yes, I'm kidding.)

My mistake? I was trying to go as fast as my little kart would carry me, as much as possible.

Bad strategy. Both on the race course, and in work life. going as fast as you can may seem like the best strategy. It's inefficient, leads to 'crash and burn out', and isn't as fun as you think it's going to be.

The important insight here is not a new one. Deciding when to use your brakes and using them is important. It's often not so obvious. As elaborated by Collins and Hallowell, this applies to everything we choose to do (our to do list), and all of the interruptions that would rob us of our time (our phones, emails, surfing and other distractions.)

As Jim Collins discussed in his book,

Good to Great, it's important to have a 'not-to-do list'; in our terms here, that's using the brakes. In

a recent BusinessWeek inteview, Collins puts it simply:

BW: You've got to admit, though, that technology has made it harder today.

Colins: I don't think it's obviously harder today at all. Technology helps, not hurts, as long as you have the discipline to turn these things off.

You don't report to your BlackBerry.

What we know about people who are really effective is that they think. The key is to build pockets of quietude into your schedule [JB: the brakes] —times when you have an appointment with yourself and it's protected. I have on my calendar "white space" days. I set them six months in advance, and everyone around me can see them. It's not that I'm not working, but absolutely nothing can be scheduled on a white space day.

Edward Hallowell wrote an entire book on the topic of using brakes. It's called CrazyBusy. He elaborates the problem and strategies to braking. He observes that today, perhaps in contrast to ten years ago, "a person has to be quite deliberate to avoid overload [and distractions.]" If you have a child, friend or personal issue with attention and focus, you'll find value in Hallowell's writing.

So, all of the readers here are, in-part, technologists. Part of getting our work done

Better/Faster/Cheaper involves larger computer displays, multiple displays, multi-core processors, memory upgrades, iPhones, Blackberries, and scores of other stuff to help go faster. Maybe, just maybe, we should move a little focus on where we should add some deliberate braking?

What do you do

to put the brakes on, at the appropriate times?

Thanks for your many comments and emails in the past; I always stop to read them!

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