Taking a step back

March 9, 2004 

I was reminded by one of my professors the other day that no matter how much work he piles on, I had a choice: Either become fully engaged in class or get off the bus. His less than cordial e-mail message still resides among the numerous others I've failed to respond to or delete over the last couple of weeks. Many of them are very much like my professor's. Others are more pointed. Kelvin, did you see my first message, I really need you to give me a call, today!

For me the messages serve as a reminder of just how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the voluminous number of e-mail messages, voice mail and requests for time and attention that I receive daily. Recently it got so bad I was forced to choose between maintaining my manic workload or disengaging just to maintain some semblance of normalcy and sanity.

In short, I have become somewhat of a bore. Every waking hour is spent meeting a deadline, pushing one back or creating one that I'm sure to change somewhere along the way.

I'm no different from many people I imagine. Our ability to communicate and access a never-ending sea of information 24 hours a day, seven days a week has resulted in us being tied to a sort of "wireless matrix." And, as strange as it may sound, we have become captives of the technology and tools designed to provide us with more freedom and greater flexibility.

E-mail, cell phones, fax machines and pagers have become such an integral part of my personal and professional life that recently I've felt over-connected, overworked, over-informed and worst of all overwhelmed.

It's no one's fault but my own. I'm totally to blame for a schedule and workload that no sane person would envy. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps my affinity for keeping my nose to the grinding stone is deeply rooted in the sayings of our ancestors, "An idle mind is the workshop of the devil."

On the other hand, I think I've learned to heed another life lesson old folks were always trying to get you to learn, "Too much of a good thing, can be bad for ya."

It's been two weeks now since I made the conscious decision to disengage a bit, to step back for while and assess where I am in a world that has become increasingly difficult to manage despite the wonders of technology.

Don't get me wrong though: I'm readily available for my clients, and others with whom I'm committed; after all, they have a hand in putting the bacon on my table. However, I've been particularly careful not to commit to anything -- or anybody -- as it relates to working more. A strange decree perhaps for someone who swore off working 9-to-5 years ago, and who believes until you've worked as an entrepreneur, you haven't totally experienced the American Dream.

I owe much of the credit for realizing just how much of a bore I was becoming and for encouraging me to step back and smell the roses to my daughter.

Daddy's little girl is never at a lost for words, and her visits downstairs to my office before she goes to bed a night have become a regular affair.

On one particular evening recently, she crept up behind me, wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me good night as she usually does. But before she turned to leave, she paused and said, "Dad, what are you doing?"

"Oh, just working as always, sweetheart," I responded.

"You know, Dad, do you ever do anything fun? You're always working; you have to enjoy life sometimes you know, you're not getting any younger," she said, before turning and leaving the room.

Oh boy! I thought. She's really beginning to sound like her mother!

Kelvin De'Marcus Allen can be reached at kda@kelvindallen.com.

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