Becoming a More Productive Keith
Posted July 13, 2021
I’ve completely changed the way I work based on two books I read from Cal Newport:
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload
In the span of about a month, I consumed these books, threw away the At-A-Glance daily planner I’ve been using to organize my work life for 10 years and started anew with a different approach to work.
What necessitated the change? I got in a terrible habit of hitching my wagon to busy work instead of real work. For example, I could easily spend eight hours a day doing nothing but responding to emails, engaging in an endless game of digital hot potato, where everyone on a given email thread did the bare minimum to get a task off their plate and onto someone else’s.
This email dance of the modern workplace is great if the goal is to convince yourself and your boss that you’re really busy. However, if your goal is to actually do meaningful work, it’s the worst dance one can engage in.
The two books mentioned earlier snapped me out of my fake “busyness” routine and focused me on more meaningful work. You should read the books, but if you’re too busy answering emails (heh), here are five things I learned.
Time block your work schedule.
Approach every day with a specific plan of what you’re going to accomplish that day and exactly what time you’re going to accomplish it. Your schedule should be organized to 30-minute increments and include lunch, breaks, everything. See image for what this looks like.
Check email three times a day.
Once when you first get in to make sure no one died over night. Don’t even bother replying to these overnight emails unless someone has actually died. After the morning check, shut it down until after lunch. After eating, limit yourself to 30 minutes answering emails, then close email and get back to work. At end of the day, schedule another 30-minute block to answer questions that came in since lunch. You will quickly find that 80% of questions get answered simply by you not replying immediately, and the other 20% are really easy to answer when both you and the sender know that you’re not going to be checking again until the next day.
Eliminate all distractions.
Yes, this means email but also the internet. When it’s time to work, work. You have your time blocked schedule; there is no excuse to be doing anything else.
Don’t worry about other people’s reaction to how you now work.
Remember, you’re doing it to be a more productive and happier person. No one should begrudge you of that, especially your boss.
Shut it down by 5:30 p.m.
I’m my own boss; I love what I do and I love my clients and coworkers. With that being said, I don’t want to think about any of them between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. And, don’t tell me there is an expectation that you reply to emails at all hours of the night. That’s just you being a willing dance partner.
CATEGORY: Brightly Creative