When in doubt, delete!

“I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.'”

Elayne Boosler

It is a sign of our age that the first image I thought of when I read this quote was the “delete” key on a computer keyboard. Though upon further reflection perhaps that is equally fitting since everything comes through some sort of digital filter nowadays!

What really strikes me when I meditate on this quote for a few minutes is while this might be the most important key in history, it is equally likely to be the least efficiently wielded. Well, I can only speak for myself of course!

Saying “no” can be a very hard thing to do at times. But without a doubt, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting things done. Let me rephrase this, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting the RIGHT things done…

Once a quarter I sit down and take stock of my weekly calendar and routine tasks to see what changes I need to make to ensure I am spending my time in the most productive and effective manner. Invariably I find myself looking at things I WANT to do but in reality, are preventing me from getting the things I NEED to get done done. While I struggle with saying no, the best discipline I have EVER created was the regular and recurring use of the “delete key” on all things that don’t make me more effective in the pursuit of my goals.

In all likelihood, I should wield this discipline more often than once a quarter…

Beware the PDM…

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

Tony Blair

In this world of continuing distraction and constant interruption the ability to say “no” is more important than ever. The hold that our digital “leashes” have over us is perhaps more akin to a “shock collar” than a leash. Just how long can you go without checking your phone for alerts, messages, etc?

I recently installed an app on my phone that measures the number of times in a day that I unlock and use my phone as well as the amount of screen time I utilize each day.

By the way, isn’t “phone” the wrong label for our devices? How much time do we actually use them as “phones” versus everything else. I remember the time when Palm Pilots and Newtons were sold as a “PDA” or “Personal Digital Assistant.” Nowadays perhaps “PDM” is a better label, “Personal Digital Master.” But I digress…

Imagine my shock and surprise when I learned that I was opening and unlocking my “phone” over 100 times a day! In a world where you sleep for 8 hours (I wish!) then in 16 hours I am unlocking and viewing my phone on average 6.25 times per hour, or just under every 10 minutes.

What does this have to do with leadership? In a word, everything. If you are leading you must be present, focused and able to serve. How can you do that if you serve a digital master that is unrelenting in it’s demands on your time? What does it say to those whom you serve if you can’t put down the digital device for as few as 10 minutes to focus on their needs?

I’m still figuring out what I need to do with this information. I just know that if I want to be a leader that is focused on serving a broader and more meaningful mission, and my team that delivers on that mission, I have to be able to say “no” to the PDM. Saying yes is easy, saying no is going to be so much harder…

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