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Are You Becoming a “Productive” Moron?

Are You Becoming a “Productive” Moron?

Imagine, 1-2 years from now, that a new kind of employee has emerged in your place of work.

He’s seen as effective by executives and managers alike, and is famous for the speed at which he returns email.

In fact, the new email tracking software that the company has in place then, shows that he has the best average email response rate — he replies to email, on average, a mere “5.73 minutes after receipt.”

The numbers also show that he’s able to respond at all hours of the night, on weekends, when he’s on vacation or on holidays, and while he’s supposed to be sleeping.

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    He’s the kind of guy who regularly drops everything to help out an executive with any request they might have. He’s learned that success breeds success. As his reputation grows as the go-to guy, more executives call him out of the blue to get his help.

    He’s known to carry his smartphone to the unlikeliest of places, some of which are “un-hygienic,” but hey… he works hard for his number one ranking.

    He’s regularly held up as a model for others, and employees whose email response rate is much worse are often sent to him for coaching.

    They all have the same complaint, however.

    When they try to talk with him it’s hard to get his undivided attention.

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    He interrupts their coaching sessions by checking his email. As text messages come into his smartphone he responds to them immediately, and there’s not a phone call that can ever roll over to his voicemail. He answers lots of messages in the moment, or close to it, and that by itself generates lots of new messages from the recipients.

    They are never able to get any good advice from the guy in the two minutes they have with him between interruptions. In fact, it seems as if he’s always looking for something more exciting than the conversation or meeting he’s in, making people wonder if he’d not alternately suffering and benefiting from ADD.

    He’s actually a moron. But he’s a quite a productive one.

    It all started when his boss gave him his first Blackberry, after observing that he was piss poor at managing his own time. He would sit down for hours waiting for something to do, but he didn’t have the ability to actually start anything useful on his own. Nor could he take on projects that were too long, or complex.

    What he could do quite well, however, was to respond to email, so giving him a smartphone seemed to be a good decision, especially when he replied to his first midnight email within minutes one Sunday morning, quite unnecessarily… This only confirmed to some that he wasn’t that smart.

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    What his boss didn’t anticipate was that the no-too-smart employee would be held up as a role model, while demonstrating behaviours that used to be seen by most as counter-productive. In the rush for quick results, the company became one that punished its good workers and rewarded the morons.

    If this isn’t happening in your company, be warned, because the most recent research indicates that it’s coming faster than the speed of a hot email.

    A recent article in the New York Times on recent research by Intercall, noted that 30% of workers in the U.S. who use technology to do their jobs feel the need to stay connected to work 24/7, even during weekends, breaks and holidays. One in two workers also say that taking time off is becoming increasingly challenging.

    Today, 25% of workers think that their supervisors expect them to be online and connected to work after hours and that their job security depends on this. Almost 15% of respondents say that they plan to attend at least one work-related call or web meeting during their next vacation and 17% say that it is frowned upon if they don’t connect to work during their vacations.

    I’d like to make a bet.

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    Without the active intervention of management in your company, these numbers are only going to get worse. They are fuelled by fears and anxieties that have increased during this recession, and technology has allowed bad habits to spread across companies like wildfire.

    Turning the ship around is no easy task.

    After all, where does the accountability for “worker productivity” lie in most companies? Is it with line managers? The CEO? The CFO? Someone in Human Resources?

    It’s one of those issues that’s likely to continue to fall through the cracks, and anyone who does try to change it is faced with the fact that they’ll need the consensus of a number of executives and managers in order to turn things around. In other words, there will have to be public, broad agreement to not send or reply to emails, IM’s and text messages after 12am and before 6am.

    Until that happens, more workers will feel like they need to connect to work 24/7, and more managers will make employees feel as if they need to be online and connected after hours, and even more will believe that their job security relies on adopting behaviors modeled by the productive moron.

    In the meantime, corporate productivity will continue to suffer as more employees are given smartphones, and bad habits become defacto operating standards.

    Who in your company will stand up and say “we’ve ALL had enough, and we’re not going to take this anymore?”

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    Francis Wade

    Author, Management Consultant

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    Last Updated on February 25, 2020

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

    It’s also unnecessary.

    Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

    Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

    But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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    Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

    “It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

    The Fake Inbox Zero

    The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

    Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

    You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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    Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

    However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

    The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

    So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

    Have zero inboxes.

    The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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    So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

    You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

    The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

    There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

    Stop Faking It

    Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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    Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

    If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

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    Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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