Imagine yourself for a moment in the departure lounge of an airport. You are rushing to catch a connecting flight, half-jogging to the gate and pulling your wheeled carry-on bag behind you. A sign on the wall catches your eye. It says “Beware! There are pickpockets in this area.”
Now what is the action that you are most likely to do at this moment? If you are like 95% of the traveling public you will instinctively reach for your wallet, your purse or the breast pocket of your blazer – wherever you remember your money to be.
Bad move. That is precisely what a good pickpocket wants you to do. This is the reaction they are looking for. In fact the first priority for any ambitious pickpocket is to locate the nearest warning sign and stand near it, since this is where success happens.
Human beings are hard-wired to react, especially to dangerous or threatening stimuli. The threat of a pickpocket in the area immediately forces the unsuspecting passer-by, to touch the location where the money is stored, as an attempt to neutralize the threat by ensuring the money is still there. But by doing so, the passer-by is basically saying to the pickpocket, “hey, thief, my money is here, OK?”
The reaction gives away precisely what the pickpocket wants: the correct location of the goods.
In this situation, the unsuspecting traveler reacts as all living creatures do. Alerted to danger, instinct takes over. The pickpocket on the other hand, is pro-acting, anticipating the turn of events and setting a trap. The thief is actually writing the history of the next few minutes even before they happen. The thief anticipates the reaction of all but the coolest of airport travelers and communicates and influential message by way of the warning sign itself. A perfect trap.
In the working world, much of the problem we have with managing time come from this same reality – the one that says we must react. When emails come in, we feel compelled to read them. When someone interrupts, we feel obliged to respond. When a meeting planner books a meeting we feel obliged to go, even if it messes up the entire afternoon. Reaction makes us follow the calendar’s commands. Worst of all, when that email comes in that says “Your bank account has been frozen”, you click quickly on the link to see what’s wrong, only to let an army of malware directly into your company’s network.
A cool mind allows for proactive thinking to replace blind reaction. Planning and communicating puts you back in control of all events, even those that have not happened yet.
This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you would like a copy, hop on over to my Books page. If you would like me to come and speak to your group, contact details are available on my Speaker page. Either way, you will win back time and money. It’s just practical common sense.