Being constantly ‘on call’ at work by email, phone, at my desk and the newly installed enterprise-wide ‘chat’ program (aargh!) means that my ‘to do’ list grows faster than I can tick things off. The only way to clean the slate is to catch up out of hours, during which no one can add anything to the list. That is, unless they’re in our Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco or New York offices. However, many of these colleagues have recently been fired so this is less a problem these days (more about this in a future post).
Not only am I chasing an ever-growing ‘snake’ of tasks and meetings, because most tasks or meetings are small, much of my day is spent recovering from the last interruption and steeling myself for the next ‘to do’. So while the quantity of time for my projects is reducing, the quality of time is also plunging.
I am pretty good at multi-tasking (or rapid switching, which is probably a more accurate term). But recently, I reached my limit. I had two days in a row where I struggled to work out what to put on my time sheet. I was busy all day but was I productive? Could I justify charging this time to a client? Could the budgets on my projects handle days like this?
A very timely article appeared on Lifehacker: Simple Guidelines for Workday Quality over Quantity. These are the rules.
QUALITY vs quantity, UX process.
Check email ONLY:
Send any time
Set email to check every 3 hours.
NO email on evenings.
NO email on weekends.
EMERGENCY? = Use phone.
FOCUS 1-3 Activities max/day
LOG 1-3 Succinct status bullets every day on team wiki
OUT by 5:30PM
I bookmarked this on Delicious on February 28 and tried to implement it when I went to work on Monday.
I wasn’t successful straight away. First, I got rid of the pop-up that told me I had new email. Even this small step was helpful, despite me still checking my mail twice an hour. Then there was an unfortunate (but necessary?) evening where I worked until 8:30Â PM. But as the week went on, I checked my email less and less often.
By Friday, I no longer had Microsoft Outlook open at all. I followed the 10Â AM, 1Â PM and 4Â PM rule (interestingly, every time I checked my mail, I spent at least half an hour responding to the accumulated messages — but I was thankful for the uninterrupted three hours of productive work that had just passed). I finished one task on Friday. And at 5:30Â PM, I dropped it all and went to the pub.
It was a rather extraordinary day. I was so thrilled by it that I’ve been telling everyone about the rules. My colleagues are envious. They immediately recognise the wisdom of the rules but are doubtful they can apply them.
Maybe if I can show them these rules are achievable (at least on some days) at our workplace, more people will adopt them.