With overstuffed inboxes and endless to-do lists, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There’s a temptation to hunker down and focus on the few small tasks right in front of you – but that’s the wrong move, says Brian Reich, author of Shift and Reset: Strategies for Addressing Serious Issues in a Connected Society. Instead, Reich argues the best way to defeat the modern sense of overload – and find a true sense of purpose – is by learning to think big.
How can you get started? Reich has three tips you can start using today.
Find your focus. “If your goal is to eradicate hunger, that’s a big, ambitious goal,” he says. But it also makes it easier for you to decide how to spend your time and what to focus on. “If you wake up every day saying, ‘My goal is to eradicate hunger and I want to do everything I can today to get closer to that,’ you’re going to make smarter choices. Whereas if you wake up and say, ‘My goal is to get through today, or just get through my to-do list,’ you’re going to make a very different set of choices.” A socially-conscious mission is great – but it’s not mandatory. You could decide that spending time with your family, or working hard toward a promotion, is your main goal. The key is focus.
Make room for what matters. “There are practical bandwidth issues,” says Reich. “There are a limited number of hours in the day, and a limited number of dollars – and if those are being spent in a way that does not directly result in the outcomes you desire, then arguably that’s wasted.” Think ruthlessly about what you can cut (one example is e-newsletters, which often have very low open rates but take hours to produce). “You need to stop doing certain things,” says Reich, “so you even have the potential to imagine what would be possible.”
Embrace the basics. Social media is all the rage, and it’s a great tool, says Reich. But it’s not sufficient by itself. “While the tools have gotten more sophisticated, our behavior and understanding in a lot of ways have not, so we have to go back and catch up a little bit,” he says. “We’re going to have to relearn some stuff.” His favorite examples? Writing skills – which are essential to the storytelling social media requires but have been deprioritized in the digital era – and interpersonal connections. “Human relationships are still deeply critical to good marketing and good communications,” says Reich. “But when you can send an email instead of picking up the phone – and it’s easier and cheaper and you can do 20 at a time – you start to do that and then relationships change. We have to learn to talk to people again.”
In an era of too many demands and too much information, it can seem foolish – or masochistic – to think even bigger. But, as Reich points out, it’s actually the best way to determine what’s really important. “The minute we stop thinking big is the minute we settle,” he says.
What’s your strategy for thinking big?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.