We are often slaves to office productivity programs.
Here are two examples.
#1 – Calendars: We schedule interruptions rather than our important work.
Eric Barker said the following (from his book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree)
Most of us use our calendars all wrong: we don’t schedule work; we schedule interruptions. Meetings get scheduled. Phone calls get scheduled. Doctor appointments get scheduled. You know what often doesn’t get scheduled? Real work. All those other things are distractions. Often, they’re other people’s work. But they get dedicated blocks of time and your real work becomes an orphan.
This is very true for me. I use calendars to remind me of appointments. Urgent things take up my time slots while important work that are less urgent do not find their way into my calendar.
We should instead deliberately set aside time to do important work otherwise they will never be completed. It can be writing a book, coding a software, or completing an e-course without a deadline. Don’t let others dictate how you should spend your time. Decide what is important and schedule your time for it.
#2 – Email: It is a to-do list given by others
Paul Graham, in his article Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas, said,
Email was not designed to be used the way we use it now. Email is not a messaging protocol. It’s a todo list. Or rather, my inbox is a todo list, and email is the way things get onto it. But it is a disastrously bad todo list.
Do you dread going through your email such that you would procrastinate clearing it? It is common because an email inbox has become a giant to-do list for the user. Worse, this to-do list is not created by you but your boss / colleague / customer / partner. He simply dumps the task on you and expect a reply without your permission.
I cannot avoid a to-do inbox totally but I make it more pleasurable by turning it into a learning hub. I carefully select and subscribe to people whom I want to learn from and my inbox would be filled with great ideas which I look forward to. Moreover, I get wiser after reading these emails.
In other words, you need to deliberately shape the kind of emails you would like to receive. Maybe you should even ask your boss to tell you in your face when he needs to get something done instead of forwarding emails to you because you might ‘miss’ them (deliberately). You need to ‘train’ those who send you emails by notifying them you would only answer emails at specific timings. Sometimes not replying works too. The person will show up if it is important. If it isn’t, the email (task) just goes away.