Benjamin Pring is the Co-Founder and Director of Centre for the Future of Work at Cognizant.
He is also the co-author of What To Do When Machines Do Everything and Code Halos; How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business.
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1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m the co-founder and director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, which is a “think tank” that looks at leading-edge technologies and how they are going to change the future of all our work.
I’ve been a technology analyst for 35 years (heaven help me!) and have tried to help people “see around corners” and “calculate the compound annual growth rate of unintended consequences”.
2. What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
If I’m on the road (which is 70% of the time), I’m presenting at events and to clients, and meeting with partners and media.
If at home, I’m writing or trying to keep too many spinning plates from crashing. But wherever I am, I’m always reading a ton of stuff and thinking about how the day’s events fit into the big moving picture.
3. Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I haven’t had a regular commute to an office for over 20 years now, and could never imagine going back to that type of work/life. Nowadays, most of us “work at phone” anyway, so being a commuter makes less and less sense. Particularly when you’re looking at your phone at 5am and 9pm – that’s the new 9-5: 5-9.
4. Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
In retrospect, my career has developed from me being good at some things (analyzing, writing, speaking, presenting) and not being good at others (a long list that I’d prefer to keep secret!).
As the great philosopher Johnny Mercer said, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with Mister In-Between. My observation over my lifetime is that a lot of people struggle with that, and end up doing a lot of things they don’t particularly like and aren’t particularly great at.
That then leads to stress and anxiety and having to worry about managing workloads and schedules. Of course, getting to that point takes a lot of hard work and smarts.
5. What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Doing work I like when I like and then doing other stuff when it suits. Again, it sounds easy, but getting to that point isn’t.
6. What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Time-boxing and sprints are good approaches I’ve found over the years.
If you’re procrastinating or paralyzed by the task ahead, just tell yourself you’re going to give yourself 3 hours and you’re going to finish it within that time box. And then it is what it is. That sometimes helps me get past the “oh, I’ll do it tomorrow, or when I’ve got a clear day” syndrome, which can be a problem.
7. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Too many to mention.
Probably the two best business books of recent years are Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull of Pixar, and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Both are about being creative ― Catmull talks about the process of teams working together to bring amazing new ideas to life, and Kondo talks about decluttering your life to make room for growth. Many of the businesses I work with aren’t very good at either. Required reading for everyone, I would suggest.
8. What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Put one foot in front of the other.
9. Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Always remember, the future of work is not work!
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