Another approach I stumbled upon recently viato celebrate the fact that you do actually get a lot done each and every day.
What if you worked on the basis that you began each day at zero balance, so that everything you accomplished – every task you got done, every tiny thing you did to address the world’s troubles, or the needs of your household – put you ever further into the black? What if – and personally I find this thought almost unthinkable in is radicalism, but still, here goes – what if there’s nothing you ever have to do to earn your spot on the planet? What if everything you actually get around to doing, on any given day, is in some important sense surplus to minimum requirements?
This is what makes to-do software unique. The majority of tools we use in our jobs are about communicating with someone else. All that messaging, all those Google docs, all that email—it’s about talking to other people, documenting things for them, trying to persuade them. But a to-do list is, ultimately, nothing more or less than an attempt to persuade yourself.
The return to the office is well under way, just as summer in the northern hemisphere begins. Pretty soon, people will be able to resume the habit of staring wistfully out of the window, hoping it will still be sunny at the weekend. As many workers embrace a hybrid pattern, perhaps commuting 2-3 days a week, the experiment in full-time home-working is ending. At the same time, assessments of its effectiveness are proliferating.
Despite working longer hours, the employees had less focus time than before the pandemic. Instead, all their extra time was taken up by meetings.
This continues the reflections on the changes to work based on coronavirus. In a separate piece, Derek Thompson discusses the winners and losers, such as the growth of suburban-town-centers and downturn in regards to city businesses.
The discussion touched upon devices and calling out usage. This reminded me of something that danah boyd once shared:
- Verbalize what you’re doing with your phone’
- Create a household contract
In regards to ‘work’, I was intrigued by Doug’s discussion of work and non-work (if that is what we want to call meetings etc). It made me wonder if there are some people out there who maybe never ‘work’?
In relation to clocking hours, I personally do not have to worry about that, and must admit, I prefer not stressing about every minute. However, I do quite a bit of development in the creation of various Crystal Reports with a third-party. One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt is that everything counts. This has definitely made me more mindful of the emails I send and the testing I do, especially when you think of every update and request as a fifteen minute block.
As a side note, I wonder how we might rethink email requests and interruptions within organisations if they were billed in fifteen minute blocks?
Lastly, Bryan’s involvement reminded me of the pre-TIDE conversation?
The Art of Getting Your Shit Done
Will the experience of working-from-home make employees reluctant to resume the daily struggle with traffic or public transportation, or to put up with irritating co-workers and unproductive work environments? Or will we discover that we’ve missed something precious in being deprived of interactions with others?
Although many have raised fears associated with absenteeism, there is also a danger of presenteeism, where because you are present you are productive. One of the things to come out of the pandemic is the danger of the cult of reproducibility. Technology is not a direct substitution for face-to-face interactions. That is, not everything done in the office can be done at home, and vice versa. Both spaces are unique, with their own features and affordances, forever changing over time. For example, working from home can be more conducive for the deeper appreciation of ideas, whereas being in the presence of others often forces you to into answers. In addition to the space, the conditions of work changes things. For example, when people are mandated to work from home, this takes away from the opportunities to break up the day.
In addition to the space itself, there is the transition between different performances that occurs. Office life is a performance, but maybe just a different performance. Working from home offers certain lifestyle possibilities. With the lose of the commute, the transition between life and work becomes blurred. Associated with this, the technology we have come to depend upon has created something of a templated self, where we are conditioned to work in a particular way. This has all created the conditions for a perpetual work environment which has colonised the home. Work is subsequently no longer a vocation and deep ownership.
For me, this adds to Jennifer Moss’ discussion of burnout, Cal Newport’s exploration of productivity hacks, and Sean Blanda’s fear about the way in which remote work often becomes about tasks, rather than people.
For decades, robots were cordoned off in cages. Now they are moving among us, changing the scope of where robots can go and who can use them.
All these advances in robotics — better grippers, cheaper arms and powerful, affordable vision systems — have allowed smaller businesses to introduce robots at much lower prices. Whereas a big industrial robot might once have cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy, program and install according to a 2007 estimate from the industrial supplier ABB, these newer innovations have helped produce robots with total costs as low as $50,000, making dexterous automation affordable to many more buyers.
Thompson explores the growing potential and possibility of robots that co-exist with humans. This includes moving beyond industrial uses into professional services, such as milking cows, facilitating medical procedures or sorting and ferrying e-commerce products.
Sobalvarro imagines a workplace where, eventually, a human can work alongside big, swinging, heavy arms without risk of injury. It would be, fancifully, a bit like Moses walking into the Red Sea: “The robots are aware of the people and they’re there to serve the people, and they do what is necessary to allow people to move through there safely.”
This piece reminds me of Martin Ford’s book Rise of the Robots. My only concern with the piece is the lack of any critical engagement with the subject. In some respects it reads a little like a ‘press release designed to predict the future‘. Either way it will be interesting to see what will become of robots in the future. Maybe rather than replace humans, robots will make some things ‘more doable‘? It will also be intriguing to see the place of robots in the Global South, where labour costs are often a lot cheaper?
Browning talks about what leaders are able to manage. Similarly, Philip Riley highlights the stresses that principals are put under. What seems overlooked in both accounts are the structures often in place that allow leaders to prosper and the sacrifices made by those within the support networks involved, such as family and friends.
In our always-on world, burnout has long been a threat. But in 2020 burnout became rampant, seemingly overnight. Within weeks millions of people lost their jobs and faced financial and food insecurity. People working on the front lines worried for their physical safety, and those in health care put their lives at risk every day. A third of U.S. employees started “living at work” — with the kitchen table as their new pseudo-office. Over the year acute stress would become chronic stress. And it shows few signs of abating.
Today’s level of burnout is the result of an existing problem made exponentially worse. Yet despite how massive the problem is, it’s never too late to fix it. Combating burnout may feel like an overwhelming and herculean task, especially after months of emotional fatigue, but if you’re armed with the right tools, it can be easier than you might think. And ready or not, we can’t ignore the urgency — we are in the midst of a burnout epidemic.
Teaming up together, Leiter, Maslach, and David Whiteside, the director of insights and research at YMCA WorkWell, and I created a survey that analyzes the state of burnout and well-being during Covid-19. We combined several evidence-based scales, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory General Survey (MBI-GS), a psychological assessment of occupational burnout, and the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), which assesses employees’ perceptions of work-setting qualities that affect whether they experience engagement or burnout.
Moss discusses how organisational issues are often put on individuals to resolve. In response, she provides a number of ‘upstream interventions’ for moving forward. These include more flexible working conditions associated with working from home, reviewing the need to meetings, being empathetic and checking in on people’s well-being.
- Ask, Is this meeting necessary?
- If yes, then ask:
- Does it have to be a video call?
- Does it have to be longer than 30 minutes?
- Which attendees are absolutely essential?
- Can we turn off our cameras and use our photos or avatars instead?
- Can we do an audio-only conference call for a much-needed screen break?
- Start meetings with a check-in: How are people feeling? Does anyone have a back-to-back call? If you’re leading the meeting, set a timer so you can let anyone who does have one jump off five to 10 minutes early.
I wonder if the pandemic, rather than changing everything, has merely amplified what is already in place? As the organisation I work for considers bringing everyone back, it feels like some of the elephants in the office have simply gotten bigger.
Americans are told to give their all—time, labor, and passion—to their jobs, Jill Lepore writes. But do their jobs give enough back?
It is interesting to think about this at the moment in Australia where there is a lot of discussion about people working in quarantine hotel also having a second gig.
we can spend forever looking for the perfect fix. However, the fix is only part of the solution. In addition to going through the process involved in coming to a decision, what we actually do once we have made that decision to change is just as important. What everyone really needs to learn is how to overcome various hurdles and hiccups. So often people think that the answer to problem solving is to holla for the nearest technician. Although there are some issues which we can’t solve, there are many which we can with a little nous. No matter how simple the solution, there will always be a problem that needs to be overcome. We need then a change of mindset, not to simply change the program every time we have a problem.
It also has me thinking about my current work. I came into the role without any knowledge of the system we use. I begged, borrowed and listened my way through, tinkering and testing various pieces and processes. I actually think that it has been helpful in not having any knowledge, but instead having the right approach.
Cal Newport on the 43 Folders blogger Merlin Mann; the late productivity expert Peter Drucker; the author David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method; and why G.T.D. doesn’t address the anxiety and inefficiency associated with e-mail overload, a phenomenon that knowledge workers experience in the office.
In software development, for example, it’s widely accepted that programmers are most effective when they work on one feature at a time, focussing in a distraction-free sprint until done. It’s conceivable that other knowledge fields might enjoy similar productivity boosts from more intentional assignments of effort. What if you began each morning with a status meeting in which your team confronts its task board? A plan could then be made about which handful of things each person would tackle that day. Instead of individuals feeling besieged and resentful—about the additional tasks that similarly overwhelmed colleagues are flinging their way—they could execute a collaborative plan designed to benefit everyone.
I think the biggest challenge with this is as much about mindset as it is about process. It is interesting to consider this alongside discussions around distributed leadership.
My fifth book, Time Rich: Do Your Best Work, Live Your Best Life, is now available!
Tip #10: When you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to everything else, and that might include your own priorities and goals.
Tip #9: We are aup to five-times more productive when we get into the ‘flow state’, or ‘the zone’.
Tip #8: The amount of energy required to keep a ball rolling is less than that required to get it rolling in the first place.
Tip #7: 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.
Tip #6: If it’s a step-by-step process-oriented task, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Tip #5: Human beings tend to work on things long after the point of diminishing returns has been reached — we’re kind of like Forrest Gump running into the change-rooms after scoring a touchdown instead of stopping to celebrate.
Tip #4: Stop defaulting to meetings for everything, and if you must, keep them short — 15 to 30 minutes.
Tip #3: If you value your time at $100 an hour, then why are you still doing tasks that someone else will happily do for $10 an hour?
Tip #2: Reflect often on how you are spending your time. Be objective — what’s adding value and what isn’t?
Tip #1: Do work that aligns with your strengths, values, interests and market opportunities.
I’m picking up a distinct impression that the novelty of WFH has begun to wear thin as we realise that the pandemic might turn out to be a very long haul indeed. And the more we are obliged to interact with the technology at home, the more acute our perceptions of its implications and downsides are becoming
It is interesting working in project which has the intent of making my work obsolete, that is creating resources and building the capacity of others so that I am not depended upon so much. The challenge I am finding is that you can make something ‘reproducible’ however if the person in question does not actually want to reproduce it and follow your recipe then you are in trouble.
On ‘Doug-shaped’ things, I have recently been engaging with a few things from. He talks about continually recentring around what matters. It kind of left me wondering, to borrow your point, what is ‘Aaron-shaped’? I do stuff, but I am not always sure what shape it really is.
Why are we always assuming a distributed workforce is a good thing for the worker?
Some of this reminded me of Peter Ford’s Rise of the Robots, where he talks about offshoring as the first step towards automation.
As technology advances, we can expect that more and more of the routine tasks now performed by offshore workers will eventually be handled entirely by machines.