How often do you decide to do something only because “you can”? When you really think about it you may realize that it is way too often. Did you just jumped in the car and drove half a mile to buy a bottle of water when you could have walked? Did you just came home and turned on the TV without really thinking about it and then not even watching it? Did you just sent an email on “hot topic” instead of picking up a phone and calling to the person in question? Did you just buy something without really needing it just because it looked nice and you had some money and free time?
Very few of us behave really responsibly and think through our actions before we go and do something. To think logically about every single thing we do all the time would be really taxing on our internal resources and we would overthink everything and not enjoy the life so much. But when it comes to business we should pay a bit more attention as the resources we are using are not just our internal (attention, willpower, etc.) ones but also external (company’s money, time of other people, priority of the stuff we work on, and others).
This one resource is very easy to waste on things we don’t need or want. Did you just spent three hours sitting in front of a TV watching some movies you didn’t really enjoy only because the TV was on and it was easy not to go and do something else? You could go out with friends, spend time with family, exercise, read, work, learn to paint or take a walk and relax. And instead of these you decided to sit and mindlessly stare at something you forgotten about the next day. Why? Because you could.
Just imagine a typical situation in corporate environment. Your boss came to you and told you that you have five hundred dollars to spend and celebrate some team success. What do you do? Will you think in terms of “I have 500 USD, let’s spend it,” or in terms of “I want to celebrate our success in the most meaningful way and I have 500 USD in case I need them.” The first approach is wasteful to company resources and may not even bring the effect you want to achieve. “Let’s all go to a fancy restaurant and order some expensive wine,” while most of us would prefer just to hang out in our favorite pub over couple of beers. You just spent five hundred dollars in a rather inefficient way and why? Only because you could. The responsible approach would have been to think first about what type of celebration is right for your team and then just figure out how the five hundred bucks fit in. And if you need just two hundred? So what? You had your fun and by acting like a responsible adult you even saved some money for others.
There are so many distractions in modern society. Social media, old-school media, overload of information coming from all sides. But only because the information is available it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to consume it. You should carefully pick what channels of information you want to follow and how much time you want to spend on it. Herbert Simon (winner of Nobel Prize for Economics) once said “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” In my case I decided not to buy a TV as it would just cause too much distraction. I decided to read only a selected number of online media and I do it only at specific times. The same goes to e-mail, instant messengers, and other types of online communication. It is only up to you to decide how responsive you want to be or whether you will be online and available 24×7 only because you can.
So what should you do?
Sit down and spend couple of minutes replaying your actions last week and try to understand the decisions that let to them. Did you do the things you did because they were the right things to do or because you just could?
What are your examples of situations when you did something only because you could without thinking whether you should?
Originally posted at LinkedIn.