A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

TIMEBACK BLOG Syndicate content

What are you?

Posted February 19, 2008 @ 9:06 AM

"We are what we repeatedly do." - Aristotle

Ben Worthen of the Biz Tech Blog in the Wall Street Journal published a clever post on an experiment to break his own email addiction. The results are both pathetic and funny, in a "isn't it funny how Milhouse always gets beaten up by Jimbo and Nelson and snubbed by Lisa" kind of way.

Worthen avoided setting heroic goals (checking emails only once a day, say), and opted for something much more modest:

We thought it would be a worthy experiential-journalism project to record how often we checked our email and to share the results with all of you. We planned to do this for a day. We called off the experiment after an hour. The reason: We’d already checked email 12 times, often for no reason at all.

Despite his uncontrollable (and unconscious) need to wallow in the inbox, Worthen retained enough journalistic objectivity to note two bad habits:

1) We had a tendency to check our email in the middle of phone calls; and 2) Sometimes we checked email without even thinking about it – our fingers moved the mouse over to our inbox before we knew what we were doing. It’s like we’ve been conditioned Pavlov-dog style to expect important news to drop into our inbox. So we just keep checking.

So this is what it's come to: we unconsciously undermine our ability to get anything of value done by continually interrupting our own work. Apparently, the 150 emails we get per day -- about one every three minutes -- don't constitute enough of an interruption for us. No, we're so desperate for our email fix (Maybe I've won the big contract! Maybe that girl will go out with me! Maybe I can get discount Viagra! Maybe a Nigerian prince has a fortune to share with me!) that we check even more frequently than new email arrives.

Not that the content of the email actually matters, of course. It's the simple act of checking that eases the craving:

11:45: Just checked email while talking to a co-worker. We don’t think he knows. By the way, we’re just checking to see who these messages are from again. We’re not reading them.

11:48: Just read them. One lesson from all of this: From now on, we won’t check our inbox unless we have time to read the messages that are there.

11:50: Or not. We opened our inbox without thinking again. Honestly, we didn’t want to.

If you're in the same boat as Worthen, try this: turn off your email. Even for just a little while. And get some real work done. Become more than an email junkie.

You might find that Aristotle was right: excellence is not an act, but a habit.

a reverse Heisenberg

Seems that simply measuring something like # times email checked can lead to new behaviors (via insight).

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