The “day to day” work – what is this, anyway?
This article is for anyone who has ever finished a day exhausted wondering “what happened at work today?” “what did I actually accomplish?” “I have no idea where the day went.” Augh.
Running from one meeting to another, or clicking frantically from one email to another from dawn until dusk… or later… it’s not actually moving us forward, we’re running in circles, hypnotized.
The good news is, you can take yourself out of this hypnotic trance.
A few thoughts upfront:
- Busy does not equal productive, no matter how rewarding it feels.
- Multitasking is not a real thing, it’s an illusion you’re creating.
- Most organizations are in an epidemic value creation deficit that would make any finance person’s hair stand on end… but it’s invisible, and simply accepted as the norm.
But actually, it’s all chronic underperformance.
- Waste of human lives, meaning making, talent, creativity and potential.
- Waste of the world’s resources, a lack of innovation to solve the world’s big challenges.
We’re causing this problem, actively participating in it; we’re not just passive observers watching the world go by.
It’s hard, really hard to acknowledge that what you’re spending the majority of your time doing at work is low value creating nonsense. I’ve been there. You realize it’s 5pm or 6 or 7, and wonder what happened all day – where did it go, did I do anything?
However, there is a powerful force at play: It’s way easier to keep up the façade, to “be busy” and have the reward of being in motion and distraction always. It’s way more comfortable for most of us.
- It’s somehow satisfying to hop from one thing to another
- It’s nice to be needed
- It’s glorifying to be the task master who slays those emails
Let’s just take a couple examples of things that can bury you and suck up time like quicksand.
Does email produce value?
- Certainly some do – especially when they’re info that I can read, updates, reports.
- What about all the bouncing back and forth emails that are some weird tech facilitated hot potato?
- I did an experiment once to answer emails only 3 times a day for half an hour each time – whatever I could answer in that time got answered, the rest fell off. Virtually nobody noticed – except me, because I got my life back.
Do meetings produce value?
- Certainly some do – especially when they’re to create the future, work on problem/solutions together and figure out where we’re going, what we’re doing and how we’re going to get there.
- What about the meetings that are a perverse recycling of the pervious meeting or the meeting after the meeting, or the meeting to prep for the meeting, or the weird out of body experience when you come out of the meeting wondering what it was for?
- I gave myself permission at one point to use the decline button instead of only accepting, it was amazing.
Some questions you may have already asked yourself in this context:
- How much of my day do I feel I’m actually doing high value work?
- How much of my day do I feel like I’m actually creating value at work?
- Would others who work with me think the same about the value I’m creating?
Special Note: Our tendency here is to protect ourselves, to defend, to reinforce our own value and identity that we’ve created, that keeps us safe. “Of course those 200 emails are necessary!” “Yes, of course every meeting I’m in, I must be in… they need me.” It might not be true…
…I wonder if we stepped back, what other truths might we see?
Often leaders are struggling with wanting to spend more time on higher value work like developing people, creating culture, helping facilitate novel solutions, building the future. This sounds like dreamland when you’re buried in hundreds of emails and stuck in meetings 90% of your days… it crushes people. We can do better – people have so much potential to create value, to find solutions, to make the world a better place.
What would we be brave enough to do – even 15 minutes of more focused value creation each day could change the world, your world. What could we say \”No\” to in order to make room for better \”Yes\”?
Yes, YOU have the power to do this, you are in control of your calendar, you are the one “accepting” the meeting invites or replying to the emails or heaven forbid… replying all.
You, and only you can give you permission to show up differently. And You CAN!
I think we often tend to over-value our own contribution and maybe it’s an opportunity to step back and experiment with different action:
- What if you just don’t reply?
- What if you don’t reply all?
- What if you just declined that unnecessary meeting invite?
- What if you asked for an agenda before attending?
- What if you invited someone to attend in your place who may add more value anyway!
Above all else, remember that you are the one controlling what your mouse is clicking on your screen! 😉 So thanks for taking a minute to click on this article because the people who really needed to read it were “too busy”.