I realize it’s actually impossible to answer the question! Although you can describe it after the fact, you can’t anticipate what you will not miss. This realization came to me this morning as I was walking my dog along a path that I have walked for many years. Every day, I carry my camera to take pictures of things that are new and interesting to capture. Today, I took a picture of a stump where a tree (that was apparently in danger of falling) was removed last week. I could not for the life of me remember what that tree looked like, although I had walked past it literally hundreds of times. I’m not sure if I miss it, because I’d never really paid attention to what was there in the first place!
Once I started musing on that, the words in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” song came to mind where she sang “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, they paved Paradise, put up a parking lot”. So how is this relevant to business or life? Simply this. We are so often narrowly focused on getting the job done, on our objectives, challenges and opportunities, that we miss a lot of things in the periphery. I’m not suggesting that everything we could possibly look at and be aware of is of value; however, there may be some things that are incredibly important to us, either personally or businesswise.
Screening out irrelevant data is critical to allow us to focus and operate efficiently. However, that same screening process is rarely calibrated to discriminate between truly useless inputs and potentially significant ones. How can we possibly know in advance what will be important in the future? We can’t!
What might be missed (with potentially positive . . . or negative . . . impact)? From a business perspective it could be subtle shifts in your customers’ buying behaviour, seemingly happy employees, disengaged key employees, increasing occurrence of missed objectives, tiny successes, passing conversations about business opportunities, furniture that needs repair, deteriorating signage on the front door, possibilities for automating long-in-the-tooth business processes, new competitors on your doorstep, increasing debt and opportunities for collaboration.
From a personal perspective, the things that could be missed in the future might include conversations with family and friends, changes in the neighborhood, smiles of your children and their endless stream of questions, sunrises on the way into work, subtle changes in health (positive or negative), favourite TV shows going off the air, new snacks in the supermarket, vitality of your pets, cool new books and random picture taking scenes on your morning walks.
Given that you can’t constantly be keeping an eye out for everything you might miss when its gone, here are a couple of habits that will periodically shake you out of your intense focus on . . . well, just about anything!
- Use an app that alerts you to the need to stand, breathe, look around or increase your mindfulness . . . on a random schedule (there are LOTS of them available). Note anything that is out of the ordinary such as how you feel, what is running through your mind that is being ignored, the colour of your socks . . . absolutely anything! This can be life-saving, especially if you happen to be driving around, not paying attention to your surroundings because you’re lost in thoughts about the work you have to do . . . or didn’t do!
- Whenever you stop to take a sip of water, coffee or the beverage of your choice, defocus on the task you’re working on just for the time when you are sipping. Take that opportunity to look around, notice what is around you, take a mental picture, reflect on life, etc. IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT, then you can get back to work—perhaps having noticed something that could be important to you in the future.
- When you’re interrupted by someone or something (as happens frequently in most people’s lives), for just a moment, rather than feeling annoyed at the interruption, take a breath and focus entirely on the source of the interruption–just for a moment. I am certainly not advocating living a life that craves interruptions—that would be nuts—you’d never get anything done! However, there may just be something in that moment that you would miss if it (or he or she) was gone.
What will you not miss until it’s gone? You’ll never know!
I hope you contemplate the question; however, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to find an answer!