Apr 19, 2014

How Is Your Day Going So Far?

My Father recently brought something to my attention and asked that I think about it.   He asked me to consider a common question he is asked throughout the day.   
Here’s the question. “How is your day going so far”?  Yes, that’s it. My first reaction is probably the same as yours.  It’s simply an opener, a greeting, or a start to a conversation.  Or is it?
The rate at which we measure well-being has shifted from days, weeks, months, and calendar years to minute by minute awareness and assessment. OK, so the question may be rhetorical but it does speak volumes compared to introductions just some 20 years ago.  
My Dad grew up in a small north Florida town with a POTS line (plain old telephone service). Other than this method to “catch up” and report the family's well-being, there was the U.S. mail.  I suppose his bicycle provided an avenue to reach his friends and share stories; however, no one asked “How is your day going so far”.  Instead the boys wanted to know who had returned from the war over the last year and what new company may be coming to town with jobs.  
Why do we measure hours or even minutes when we have a lifetime to reflect?
Is the shift an attempt to dissuade a real answer and reduce babble? I believe the answer provides insight into our society today. In fact, the question reveals our vulnerability or our hope for the very near future.  Most of us have experienced monumental, natural, and intentional disasters over the last 20, 30, and even 50 years.  The difference now is the time in which we give and receive information.  
To drill down to the individual on a personal level, the weekly or monthly gatherings with friends and family have been replaced by email, texting, and on-line greeting cards. As for our professional lives, perhaps "how is your day going so far" is consistent with the frequency by which it is measured.
Employers can, and do, track packages, people, and collaboration with incredibly accurate tools for insight and oversight. Imagine driving to the airport to fly to a client appointment when a car enters your lane and forces you to pull off of the road. After catching your breath, you notice a woman in a wheel chair that appears lost and confused on the sidewalk. You park the car, ask if she needs assistance and realize an hour has elapsed until her daughter is able to come to the aid of her Mom.  Meantime, the fleet tracking system the company deployed reports the car running idle for over an hour. The LIS (Location Information System) doesn't recognize the street address, and the company's on-line booking system generates an email indicating you were not on your scheduled flight. Do I need to explain how the day is going as a kind humanitarian? Nope, it's all on record. The employee missed a very important client appointment.
We have assumed our intellectual hierarchy and consciousness above all other animals.  If this isn't enough, we now have the data to prove it. There is risk and there is reward in all that we do every minute of every day.   So, how much data is too much?
To track a package, results, or productivity is one thing.   But performance management.....Well, that's another. I often advise corporate teams to slow down in order to speed up. This is frequently followed by a blank stare while running to the next client appointment with little preparation or strategy. We need to plan, prepare, and nurture an idea and see it through to success.   We should review the cycle of success [or failure] by its rate of return and whether or not its repeatable. We should leverage Best Practices and Use Cases for success. We must slow down to speed up.
Are you aware of the diagnostic statistics for ADHD and ADD? The reports are staggering. Do we really need to take a pill to concentrate and focus to complete a single task? To collaborate in real-time via presence, IM, while speaking on the phone and waiting for the contract via email may be a bit distracting. I often ask myself how accessible I must be to keep up.  I am fascinated by more and more technology advancements; However, I find in order to be productive, I also must disengage.
And now back to my Dad's request for me to consider the question. To assess well-being, personally or professionally cannot be answered by minutes or hours.  More important, providing status updates, "doing well so far", may exacerbate fear and vulnerability. Evaluations of employees require dialogue and collaboration.   

Reach out to friends and family. Take the time to visit and share meaningful experiences that an emoticon simply cannot. As for the marketer and the rhetorical question, “How is your day going so far?" My polite response, "Fine, and yours?"

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