I relaunched my consulting business in 2013 built on a belief that life is too short to be busy. I decided that I would never answer an email from someone I hate, never have a conversation with someone I didn’t respect, and never be too busy to write 500 words a day.
…Okay, so the idea of living a more fulfilling life by cutting toxic and otherwise non-value added interactions out of it is very solid (if not-entirely-new advice). But what really got me thinking was this next part:
Another friend and I exchanged four emails about how tough it would be to meet on a Google Hangout. In the time it took us to exchange emails about her schedule, we could have been done already.
…The above quote illustrates a challenge that I have struggled with (without always realizing it) for much of the last few years: I bleed away five minutes here or there working on this or that seemingly-at-the-time-necessary but secretly-non-value-added activity, all the while expanding the length of my day without really increasing my net productivity.
…I know that it’s possible to cut such fluff out of my day, though, because when I am up against a deadline I become very good at narrowing my focus and culling all but that which is absolutely critical to accomplishing the task at hand. Unfortunately, this clarity of focus is something that I draw on intermittently and mostly out of necessity; ingraining it as a 24/7 habit is very much a work in progress.
With that said, I think that successfully narrowing focus and being busy in a good way is mostly a product of the cues in our environment. Stepping back and asking yourself “What about the situation I’m in is telling me this is important?” might be a good way to recognize these false alarms for what they are before you react to them. And in this same vein, I think that organizations need to do a better job of communicating to their people what they should be working on, because I think a lot of people spend time doing stuff that doesn’t generate value for the business. What this looks like will vary by company – it could be office layout, what is emphasized in department meetings, the way roles are structured…
Closing: For those of you that have already mastered this concept (and your time), what steps did you take to separate that which is important from the noise that can so easily clutter one’s day? Is your process something that might be repeatable at scale (e.g. applied to a department or organization to improve net productivity)?
…Just a Wednesday morning thought stream and question to readers.