Today I share a quick quip on productivity and refer to an old, but spot on blog post from Tim Ferris (the author of the 4 hour work week) about focusing on truly important work.
Ferris: “If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put these on a Post-it note:
Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.”
It got me thinking about the myriad of time sucking meetings and projects that many of us get caught up in each day, with no tangible results to speak of. There isn’t a person reading this post who hasn’t walked out of an hour-long meeting. saying; “that was a waste of an hour”. I can’t even calculate the amount of time I have spent on projects or “required” work that had no real value. Makes you think of “TPS” reports from the famous 1999 movie Office Space.
In fairness, I am not as radical as Tim, but I do think business leaders often mistake being busy as being productive. It’s a lot easier to load up your day with busy work as opposed to focusing 2-3 hours a day on one impactful project. And if you truly have more than one critical project due, add a second 2-3 hours on the same day. The rest of the day can be used to sit in those “meetings” and respond to the barrage of emails and voicemails, which more often then not, are not critical at all.
I have always found that I work best in this way, locking myself in what I commonly refer to as a WAR ROOM with one or two trusted team members so we can knock out a project with intense focus. All my best work has been as the result of these bursts of activity. Recently, that has extended to virtual meetings with a business colleague I partner with frequently to build content for project delivery. We will schedule an hour on the phone with google docs blazing across our laptops. We rarely go beyond an hour and usually put in 45–50-minute bursts of collaboration followed by a couple of hours of independently-focused work.
I am not advocating wasting 5-6 hours a day. But what I do believe is that we need to find our zone and not be distracted by the dogma of work culture. To be honest, most folks should not be working more then 8-9 hours a day – let alone 12 – 13 hour marathons – except in extreme circumstances. Every organization I have worked for has had a few leaders who put quantity of time over quality….That is a poor metric for sure.
Create your own zone and work style, and don’t make excuses for it. Just deliver…and don’t be lazy in the predictable way!
Mark Fogel is best known for his HR with an Attitude. His background includes almost a decade and a half as CHRO at Leviton Mfg., The Marcum Group, and The Success Academy Charter School Network, as well as co-founding Human Capital 3.0, a boutique HR advisory firm. Mark has been honored by SHRM nationally as their Human Capital Leader of the Year in 2007, and by HR Executive Magazine as an Honor Roll recipient in 2010 and “Best HR Ideas” in 2012. His HR teams have garnished numerous national and local awards for HR innovation, wellness, and employee engagement. Mark speaks regularly at national conferences. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Adelphi’s Graduate School of Business.