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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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    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a daily plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a time limit to each task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.

    Here’s more tips about how to use calendar for better time management: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    Check out these Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools and pick the ones that fit your needs.

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    5. Know your deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to be early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time box your activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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    9. Have a clock visibly placed before you

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set reminders 15 minutes before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    Find out more here about how reminders help you remember everything.

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track your time spent

    Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent.

    But besides Egg Timer, you can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that fits yourself the best.

    14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch similar tasks together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate your time wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off when you need to

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave buffer time in-between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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