A lot of people I know are too stressed and busy. I think that’s because it’s hard to figure out what to focus on with how we consume data today. It’s non-stop and almost always in a homogeneous list of some form.
Bugs. Mail. Pull requests. Texts. Twitter. Snapchats.
I even have a hard time picking out songs because my starred list consists of 886 tracks. Before we could do everything everywhere, this wasn't as much of a problem since natural pauses in the day lead to reflection. Now you have access to an ever growing list of lists all the time. It yields this psychological effect of false urgency, where almost everything seems important. Most things are not important. Site downtime is important. Helping a friend being attacked by a jaguar is important. Doing what you said you would is important.
False urgency is debilitating. I think it puts us on defense instead of offense. My phone is a living popup book where every app fights for my attention, and every notification ends in an “!”. Picking a path through the trees at the beginning of the day helps me tremendously. I define an offensive strategy and move on it. Picking a path is pretty easy. In my case, I look at our bug tracker, see what important things leverage my skill-set, and assign myself a bit less than I can do to leave time to help others. Sure, there will be exceptions, but I try to handle them gracefully, specifically, and quickly. An interesting bi-product, at least for me, is that it requires me to put more trust in our team. I can’t be worried about everyone else delivering and deliver myself. It sets a precedent that everyone is focused and working on the right things. This both minimizes and localizes failure. It makes it so easy to see where our team needs to improve. It also shows us when and where we can help each other.
I bet there is something far more important you could be doing right now!