Do Less to Do More
HIMSS is always an overwhelming event - even for the most seasoned of conference goers. As I was thinking about the subtle change in tactics I've deployed to get the most out of HIMSS, I realized that I had learned a few years ago to do less, not more, at HIMSS. My first few years, I was out of the gates at 6am and didn't stop until midnight. I was attending every session every hour, viewing new technologies, listening to panel discussions. And in the end, I hadn't really absorbed that much actionable information. Not because the speakers weren't effective or the vendors weren't articulate - but because my brain reached maximum capacity fairly early in the conference. Clearly, the fire hose approach was not working.
In subsequent years, I learned to be more strategic. I would develop a set of desired outcomes for the particular HIMSS conference depending on the hot topics that year or on my organization's specific needs. Then, I would sit down with the conference material and choose a few very specific events and several must-see vendors/technologies. I would put those on my schedule and leave the rest open. Some of you might be thinking "Duh!" but for novice HIMSS attendees, it's not that obvious because there are hundreds of really important and engaging conversations happening simultaneously, and for many HIT leaders, it's like water in the desert, you don't want to walk past any of it.
By leaving space in my day, I was able to respond spontaneously to the event itself. Perhaps someone invited me to a session or I simply sat down for coffee and started up a spontaneous conversation. I've met some very interesting people that way, some of whom have become contacts and colleagues along the way, but all of whom have enriched my view of HIT in some way.
Leaving room for serendipity leaves you open to possibilities you don't get when you schedule every waking moment.
The same goes for your work day. I know, I can hear you saying it before I even write it "I can't keep my calendar open, I'm usually triple booked!" I know. But, we all know you don't actually go to three meetings at once - so that's just organizational bad behavior. Whether or not you can block 30 minutes on your calendar morning and afternoon remains to be seen, but if you can - just step away from your electronics and your work space. Walk around, wander, stride purposefully, stare out the window, meditate, space out., linger by the water cooler while you fill up. Your brain needs breathing room to be effective - to absorb new ideas, to connect the dots, and to re-energize.
So, no matter where you find yourself today, make time to take a mental break. You will do more by doing less.