Signal-to-Noise Ratio

By Dan Woychick

Last month, on the road to our Wisconsin cabin, I fiddled with the radio dial trying to maintain a clear signal to the end of the baseball game. At the same time, I adjusted the visor to block the glare of the setting sun, kept the accelerator at a steady 63 MPH, and ignored passing traffic as I stayed vigilant for deer darting from the ditches.

Responsibilities and Distractions
Just as I needed to continually shift my attention from one task to another while driving, for many in the non-profit and higher ed world this time of year can be particularly hectic, with maybe a week of relative calm in mid-October before the rush to the end of the calendar year.

Unfortunately, this cycle of “busy-ness” usually repeats itself until years go by and all the good intentions are buried with last month’s budget report. But what is everyone busy doing?

Missing the Big Picture
Even acknowledging that many are doing the jobs of two people doesn’t explain why so many non-profits favor tactics at the expense of strategy.

What needs to be done this morning? Or this week? If everything is equally important, you’re suffering from an imbalance of short-term, tactical thinking. It’s all distracting all the time – too much noise and not enough signal.

Is it possible that people secretly like, or are comforted by, this constant, daily churn? Do we seek distractions? One thing’s clear – being busy keeps us from staring at a blank piece of paper and making hard choices.

Priorities
No one remembers the press release that recapped the company picnic. Not one person. The same could be said of countless other tasks that fill our daily to-do lists. But rather than leaving us depressed at the insignificance of our jobs, this news should free us to prioritize – to carve out more time for the things that really matter.

As we get older, we tend to spend less and less time on the things we say are important – time with family and friends, favorite hobbies, exercise, healthy food. Just as we can and should make choices that simplify our daily existence away from the job, we should seek to do the same at work.

Fewer distractions, and better focus, should make us more effective in our work – and keep that signal loud and clear.

One thought on “Signal-to-Noise Ratio

  1. Elizabeth

    Focus can be a tough principle to tackle when work seems to be a mass of issues to take on and a never-ending list of priorities to check off. Looking closer sometimes reveals some simple ways to make our lives more focused. It just takes some inner reflection and some risks. I appreciate the post!

    Reply

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