Sometimes life seems to fly in with messages just because the window has been left open. Lately that has been so with my email. Like most of us I receive regular emails from all sorts of places...J.Jill with the latest Fall fashions, Chico wanting me back, tech company sales saying that they can improve the reach, efficiency, productivity, impact of my current workforce, textbook sales suggesting new titles for my courses, management education series promising greater returns, and conferences asking for papers to be presented in Honolulu! You can begin to imagine the possibilities open to me!!!!
The problem with email is in that within the present work world, email requests demand responses and thereby become our work focus. It could take a serious day to answer all those urgent emails that came in the day or even the night before and so our boxes constantly overflow at 100 unanswered. Worse yet the priorities of our jobs and personal lives are in danger of falling prey to the demands of complete strangers or even colleagues with goals not attached to our own. It must be harder still for the "Yes people" — those who have difficulty prioritizing and saying no to that which deserves no response. And yet...are they wrong? At the end of each email is a human being with a need.
Prioritization is nothing new to my job — it is my job. Where is the value — for our students, the institution, the mission, our world. Oh yeah and then does it fall within BUDGET???? In many ways I am luckier than most. My father, David J. DeMarle, an engineer back in the days Eastman Kodak was the wealthiest company in the world (and had been for 100+ years). He was my first tutor and his expertise was Value Engineering and Future Forecasting. From him I received my first lessons in the importance of looking simultaneously down on the playing field and out at the horizon to set priorities.
Still technology adds complexity. It becomes reality.
I heard the tale end today of an NPR story on how the Amish prioritize technologies . My first surprise was that they did embrace technologies. I had seen evidence of this while in Rochester, NY where the Amish community lives nearby. There I could see, despite clothing from the 1800's and horse drawn carriages, how the Amish remain entrepreneurial and prosper within our technology proficient society. Amish, technology, embrace?
They do so purposefully. I think this quote from the program poignantly points to their constant reaffirmation of their cultural and personal priorities with regards to technology and its daily usage:
"And in the background there's always one big question: Will this new technology hurt the Amish way of life? And then back to my own life."Since Images and Voices of Hope, I have been trying to reconnect to my life's priorities. In the end it becomes a daily practice of quietude — a check in of sorts with just being, just listening. When I've been able to practice this daily — or even to retain the practice daily in my mind's eye, I am able to embrace my day with clarity. Perhaps even more surprisingly I find my INBOX seems to mirror my intent as well.
A case in point, the morning after I embraced the "be here now" concept at Indian Brook park resulting in the following photo, I received the following email.
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.
- Mary Oliver
Source: A Thousand Mornings
It seems in setting priorities, the world responds. My challenge of course is holding to course, holding in the stillness.