A modest proposal: eliminate email

The concept is simple. Employees no longer have personalized email addresses. Instead, each individual posts a schedule of two or three stretches of time during the day when he or she will be available for communication. During these office hours, the individual guarantees to be reachable in person, by phone, and by instant messenger technologies like Slack. Outside of someone’s stated office hours, however, you cannot command their attention. If you need them, you have to keep track of what you need until they’re next available.

On the flipside, when you’re between your own scheduled office hours, you have no inboxes to check or messages demanding response. You’re left, in other words, to simply work. And of course, when you’re home in the evening or on vacation, the fact that there’s no inbox slowly filling up with urgent obligations allows a degree of rest and recharge that’s all but lost from the lives of most knowledge workers today.

This is from an HBR article by Cal Newport. You can and should follow his blog.

I want to hear what you think… particularly the ways in which you can make this (or some version of it) work. Drop me a note using the “Contact me” button on the ruler.

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Challenge: a day without distraction

Here are the rules: All work must be done in blocks of at least 30 minutes.

If I start editing a paper, for example, I have to spend at least 30 minutes editing. If I need to complete a small task, like handing in a form, I have to spend at least 30 minutes doing small tasks.

See the conclusions here.

Sneak preview:

if you survive the annoyance, (…) your work will be of a much higher quality.

We’re busy. We hurry. Are we missing moments?

I read this from Emerson in a post on busyness:

Life goes headlong. Each of us is always to be found hurrying headlong in the chase of some fact, hunted by some fear or command behind us. Suddenly we meet a friend. We pause. Our hurry & embarrassment look ridiculous.

Now pause, now possession is required, and the power to swell the moment from the resources of our own heart until it supersedes sun & moon & solar system in its expanding immensity. The moment is all, in all noble relations.

and it reminded me (in choice of words and in content) of one of my favorite passages from Hamlet:

 If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.

More here.

See also:

 

We work too much. And it’s our fault

 

America works too much. Half of salaried workers report putting in at least 50 hours a week, and surveys of white collar professionals report even higher figures. Long hours deplete our ability to make good choices and make it harder to fit in a full night of sleep. As a result, workers are less productive, less healthy, even less ethical.

(…)

Management seems intent on imposing long hours on workers, regardless of overtime rules, which isn’t surprising given that managers are often working brutal hours themselves. In fact, the cult of overwork is as much cultural as economic. As a paper on overtime in Britain put it, “the overtime premium is essentially the outcome of established custom and practice,” just one more aspect of the labor market that depends, at least in part, on social norms.

More here.

Best way to quit a job

Being v. doing

All of our focus is on the doing. We obsess over the latest models churned out by for-profits and nonprofits alike. The social enterprise classes at Harvard Business School study the things people are doing. When a foundation asks for an impact report, they mean the impact of the doing.

It is all backwards.

What we should be asking is who people are being. Are you being courageous? Are you being authentic? Honest? Rigorous? Unstoppable? Because that’s what really makes a difference.

It’s who you are being that matters

via Dan Pallotta.

Saying “Thank you” in the workplace

Andrew Hill at FT:

A thank-you is not:

● A way of improving skills. Thanking an incompetent staff member for work only just up to standard may persuade him to work harder, but not better. That’s what training is for.

● An alternative to money or promotion. Cash is certainly a poor substitute for gratitude, but the reverse is also true. Profuse thanks may work once in lieu of a bonus. By the third or fourth year, the motivational effect of the thank-you letter tends to wear off.

● An apology. “Thank you for offering to cover for Joan after I forgot she had asked for time off”: wrong. “I’m sorry for leaving you in the lurch on Joan’s day off – but thanks for covering”: right.

● An order, as in the hollow pre-gratitude of memos that begin: “Thanks in advance for coming in over the holiday period to complete the project.”

As other studies have shown, people tend to give far more weight to negative communications than to positive ones. That suggests employers need to dispense proportionately more gratitude to offset the harsher news they often have to transmit.