As some of you out there in the WMDDS community may have heard, my wife Christine and I recently welcomed a new addition, Rosie, to our family. She is doing awesome and it’s been an absolute blessing spending time home with her. (all typos and nonsense hereafter can be attributed to sleep deprivation J) Major life changes are always introspective, and this was especially so for me. Being away from work for a while and regularly hearing things like “What? Paternity Leave? Seriously?” got me thinking about work: how we think about it, how we do it, and where it stands in our priorities. This is a bit of a foray outside the scope of “Tech Q&A” but as with anything today Tech can be weaved into it.
Here’s my opening argument: We’re too attached to both technology and work and especially the combination of the two. I do a ton of reading/audio booking/podcasting/studying about both work and technology (because I am obsessed with doing everything the best way possible) and here is what I’ve learned and observed:
We have technology just for sake of having it. Prime example: iPads. While they absolutely serve a purpose and lots of folks make great use of them I can’t tell you how many people have said to me “What do you think of the iPad (1,2,3,mini,mega,giant-mini,ultra)? I’m thinking about getting one” to which I respond “Well, what are you going to use it for?” to which they respond “I don’t know but they look awesome.” This confuses me. I’m guilty too though, I have a tablet that I used just for piano sheet music that was really horrible for it but I used it just because I could.
We must always prove to the world how hard we work. Somehow, this seems to be a defining characteristic for whether or not we are a valuable person. This is why things like Paternity leave and staying home when you’re just a little bit sick are scoffed at I think. We put in more hours, we work from home whenever possible, and we talk about nothing but work. Sorry to say, all research that’s ever been done on productivity shows quite clearly that working more or harder, and working while you’re sick, leads to less productivity, not more. If we don’t balance and take breaks we are worse at our jobs.
We multi-task but shouldn’t. In fact, as it turns out humans can’t even do it. We can switch rapidly between tasks but we cannot truly multi-task. The result of this rapid switching? Less efficiency and poorer quality in our work. Same goes for talking or texting while driving, even if hands free. Admittedly I was always a big proponent of multitasking with my 3 screens and eccentric jumping from task to task, but after reading a lot of research and putting it to practice I’ve found it to be absolutely true that focusing on one thing and getting it done is a lot faster and more complete.
Here are the things I now do that have not only changed the quality of my life but also the quality and quantity of my work
I actually value my time when considering purchases, both technology and otherwise. Using rough numbers, a new phone for example will cost say $300 and require 15 hours of paid work assuming you take home $20/hr. We’re not done yet though. It’s also going to cost you time, let’s say 3 hours, in setting up. Unbox phone, sign into google/apple account, transfer photos, music, contacts, calendar, text history, email, download and configure apps. So, is that new phone worth 18 hours of your time? There’s no right or wrong answer but I find it valuable to ask the question.
I balance my life. I know we all say it and it’s easier said than done but have you tried it? Truly though, you are better at every part of your life when you do it. How hard are you really going to concentrate at work when you’re sick, or when your mind is pre-occupied with your kid you sent to school sick because you didn’t want to burn a sick day? I take vacations, and am renewed and more productive when I get back. And by the way, the world still spins and somehow gets by when I’m gone. I take lunch breaks that by law I am entitled to. I go to the gym or read a book, either one creates a strong barrier from thinking about work. When I’m home at night, I literally do not check work or home email on my phone at all. I am present when I’m home and I’m present when I’m at work. No more “uh huh” and “yeah” in my conversations from being distracted with my face in my phone.
I am waaayyyy more productive at work than I used to be. It’s fun to be more productive. Here are the things I do:
Batch tasks (this has been huge for me)– I check email twice, maybe three times a day, not constantly. Each time I check it, I address EVERY email. No more reading, marking unread, reading again later, addressing three days later and all the inefficiencies that go with that. Any task that can be batched, should be. How long do you wait on hold with insurance companies? Could you wait until 4:00 and call regarding the 4 or 5 claims throughout the day rather than calling each time there is a claim? How much on-hold time would that save?
Stop being distracted– My phone only does notifications for calls, texts, and calendar reminders. Email doesn’t even auto-refresh, I have to do it manually. Let’s be realistic, how efficient is it to reply to emails on our phones anyway? If I really need to get into something (like writing this article), my phone goes into airplane mode until I’m done. Also, we have an open door policy here at DDS except when you really need to concentrate and work through something start to finish. Then, the door gets closed and a note is left on the magna-doodle (or whatever works for your office) as to why the door is closed and when you’ll open it again. Everyone knows you are working on something and that they’ll have access to you later. If it’s truly urgent they’ll knock otherwise they’ll catch you when you’re done.
I schedule each day of the week (we all do)– We used to just have a giant task list for each person to get done each week and then it was up to that individual to decide how to prioritize and when to do each task, with no accountability. Now, in our Monday meetings every task is assigned to a person on a specific day so it’s very simple to see what needs to be done that day. Turns out those massive lists from before break down into a very manageable 2 or 3 things per day. Rather than spinning our wheels, a simple trip to the board gives you something to work on and everything gets done. It’s awesome.
I think we get so caught up in metrics and what we perceive as “going above and beyond” that we fall into a grind where extra effort doesn’t yield enough extra results so the only answer is even more effort. That’s a recipe for burnout and turnover. There is a better, smarter way. I’ve included the tip of the iceberg from my experience. The rest lies out there in published research and in superstars of productivity like Google and Facebook. Take a look. Enjoy the ride. I promise it’s worth it.
What are your thoughts?
Comment on our blog or Facebook article. We’d love to hear your opinions on the way we work!