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VOL. 37 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 01, 2013

The last-second madness

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Many people in the relatively danger-free world of modern white-collar workers seem to be stressed out these days. Perhaps this is because they are ill-equipped to function in the modern world. I’ve been playing around with mathematics and time to help explain what is going on.

Let’s start with the premise that humans have been around for about 6 million years. That’s when the evolutionary split supposedly occurred and we humans diverged from our cousin-creatures. I won’t rehash all of the controversy about that split since it was thoroughly covered by our neighbors in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925.

Anyhow, now we must deal with a plethora of distracting and unsettling issues on a daily basis. For most of human history, these stress-inducing factors were not present. For example, if we crunched the last 6 million years into the equivalent of a 24-hour day, CNN (24 hours of mostly distressing “breaking” news and guys named Wolf and Piers) would not show up on the scene until around the last half second of the 24-hour day. The smartphone, albeit a crude version called Simon offered by BellSouth in 1994, would show up in the last quarter second of the day. Facebook would appear about 13 one-hundredths of a second before midnight. And, the most significant of all of the vicarious stress-inducing events, “Downton Abbey,” would first air around one one-hundredth of a second before midnight. I mean, how did the Earl of Grantham squander away so many castle-supporting fortunes in such a short period of time? He needs to meet with that wisecracking baby who does all the TV commercials and get his financial life straightened out.

In other words, if we crunched all of human existence into a day, a lot of stress-inducing things happened in the last metaphorical second. The point is, our nervous systems are way behind in development when compared to our modern annoyances … I mean conveniences. Since it takes many DNA mutations to make any adjustments to the human nervous system and we get, let’s see, one shot at mutating per generation, we are not likely to automatically self-correct in our lifetimes.

So, we have to switch to other methods and make the necessary adjustment manually. Here are three suggestions: One, find a way to systematically and periodically unplug from all the “last-second” madness (preferably daily, but no less often than weekly). Take a walk, learn yoga, find a hobby or do something that gives you the sensation of being unplugged from the world. Two, learn to strategically and gracefully say no to things that don’t really fit into your plan for the day. For example, rather than a snippy or curt no, show the requesting person your list of current commitments and ask them if there is a possible alternative. Three, quit watching “Downton Abbey.” Everybody in that stupid castle, upstairs and downstairs, has serious problems. You are better off watching "Duck Dynasty." Those duck folks should help you feel very, very good about yourself and are relatively problem-free.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.

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