COX Cable, the multi billion dollar cable company deals with millions of customers around the country. At their customer service call center they have what is known as a Listening Engine. They electronically monitor phone conversations. The words spoken by customers come up on a massive screen for the customer service team to see. As more customers use the same words, or the same words are used more frequently within a conversation, the words become larger on the screen signifying they are of higher importance.
The larger words are obviously more powerful than others which signifies higher importance. It helps the people working in the call center to listen better to their callers, and identify key words or phrases to issues that need to be addressed.
I learned about the Listening Engine from a client. At the time the complexities of his business and personal life had surged and were challenging his internal capacity. He could easily become overwhelmed if we didn’t stop and address things.
Sitting in his office he handed me a sheet of paper with circles of various sizes that looked like bubbles, they covered the sheet of paper entirely. Inside each bubble were singular words or short phrases of different sizes. The larger words were what he heard more powerfully or more consistently in his mind. These were the things that bothered him the most. But there was also a large volume of smaller bubbles, which impeded focus by clouding his thought process.
He had done something profound, instead of attempting to block out his thoughts and “get to work”, he had stopped to listen closely to his inner narrative in an attempt to identify what really needed to be addressed. He had created his own “listening engine” to help articulate to me what thoughts were going through his mind. I was able to help him organize his thoughts, get focused, and regain control.
As I held his personal listening engine and reviewed the contents, it was apparent that he had an incredible amount of things that needed resolution. The confluence of thoughts were from all parts of life. Many were work related tasks, projects, and opportunities filling the majority of the bubbles, but there were also family related challenges, household projects, personal areas for growth, and practical items, all clamouring for attention in his thought life. The volume and diversity of these thoughts pounding away in his mind impeded his ability to focus, and resolve any them effectively.
I made a list of only four options that he could select from to address each item on the ‘listening engine’ worksheet.
Delegation – Is this something someone else can do, and if so, who?
Delay – Can this be delayed to a late date, if so, when?
Disregard – Can this simply be ignored, why?
Do – Identified as an item for immediate investment of time an energy.
He then reviewed the options and wrote one selection from the list inside each bubble on his ‘listening engine’ worksheet. In a practical sense, one can simply write the name of the person whom you would like to delegate to, or the date when a delayed item should be addressed, or X out items that should be disregarded.
The Listening Engine is not designed to help you manage your time, it is designed to help you manage your thought life. The objective is to identify things that actually need your thought attention, and learn how to dismiss the rest. One of the most important aspects of the Listening Engine is what comes after the exercise. Be sure to actually sit down and think through those areas that need your mental focus.
If you are having difficulty concentrating and getting things accomplished then try the Listening Engine as an exercise for yourself. I believe it will enable you to gain more control over your thought life, and be more productive with and in control of your time.