Too much media

According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 American men had, on average, almost 6 hours of ‘leisure time’ per day.   Unsurprisingly perhaps women had less, a little over 5 hours.   We haven’t found any comparable figures for the UK but they would probably be similar.

The figures are undoubtedly correct, but they just don’t feel right.

This is probably because, at the end of the working day, although we may have left the office to engage in what would appear to be a period of leisure, we don’t feel that it really is one.   We may still be checking our phones or thinking about the emails that need to be sent in the morning.   Mentally, we haven’t left the office at all.

The root of the problem is the dramatic rise in the amount of information that we have to process, not only about our work but also about our personal lives and the lives of those close to us.

Also, all of this information is reaching us through the same channels, and to an increasing extent through the same devices.   How many of us use our own phones and tablets at work?   The moment that we do, our work information becomes available to us 24 hours a day.

Separating out the different streams of information and then spotting what is important is becoming increasingly difficult.

In the workplace, ‘visual’ has been the watchword for some time.   More recently this has been followed by ‘.. and keep it simple’.

This means: provide people who are struggling in an ever-deepening sea of complex data and information with something that works like satnav i.e. clear, simple, visual images that show the road ahead.   They should ‘at a glance’ trigger critical questions, point to key issues, and highlight the right courses of action without the viewer needing to be aware of all the data that sits behind them.

The task of creating these images is far from easy, and it takes confidence.   One of the reasons we are reluctant to pare information down is because of concern about what we might then miss.

But an increasing number of people in the workplace are doing just this.   They are to be found in Finance, Operations, Sales & Marketing, Customer Services – pretty much every part of the business that depends upon data to function.

These people are mastering the data, collaborating with each other to figure out what the critical questions are, probing for the key issues, and building the skills and technology with which to create something clear, simple and that gets the vital points across.

We know that this is happening because we are there too, equipping these people with everything that they need for the task.

And they must continue to be supported.   The better we are at seeing just the information that we need, and the more confident we are that we aren’t missing much that matters, the easier it will be to leave the office behind at the end of the day.

But what of all the other complex information in our lives.   Can we apply the same watchwords about visual and simple to that as well?

The answer of course is ‘yes’.   But how this is done depends upon how much of it there is and what matters most.

The process might have to start by switching off as much of that information as possible, perhaps for a week or two.   In the quiet that would follow, it will be easier to focus upon just the few things that matter most, and to then let imagination come up with answers to the question ‘how can I turn what I need into something visual and simple?’.

Create something that works for just those few things, whether it involves technology or just notes on the fridge door, and then wait awhile before switching anything else back on.   All being well there will be little inclination do so, allowing for the additional leisure time that has been allowed back in to remain in place for good.

Paul Clarke
Develin Consulting

We have long experience of helping organisations to make things visual and simple. If we can do the same for you, then please give us a ring.