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Out of Our Minds
Friday, April 22, 2005 1:21 PM
Is your work day reactive or proactive?
Anita Sharpe on Business

This was a question posed to me and several others on a recent panel discussion. For each of us, the answer was the same: reactive. We all spend the better part of our days jumping when the phone rings, responding to email, being pulled into meetings. In other words, too often working on someone else's agenda.

Recognition is the first step to change. Here's how I'm starting to deal with it. I'm working away from the office for at least two hours a day -- in a place that has poor cell service and no online capability. And I shut my computer off every night at 8:30 (OK, well I at least plan to do that and actually did it one night.)

I'm a week into this and I feel better already.


mark - 4/26/2005 8:19:58 PM
The founders of our country had it right -- the House is to be elected every two years; the Senate every six years. The idea was that there would be time for wisdom in the Senate and more current reaction in the House. I agree with turning off the technology and waiting before responding to process and think. That is not encouraged in our society right now. Most of us are conditioned to receive an instant response. My long-standing commitment is never to send a flaming email -- waiting until the emotion has past really makes a difference.
Rob - 4/23/2005 6:46:34 PM
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and reading about this - by the way, the best books on this topic are 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen, 'The Effective Executive' by Peter Drucker, 'A Bias For Action' by Heike Bruch, and 'The Power of Full Engagement' by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Anyway, here are the best things I've heard about and read about - and tried - that keep you in charge of your day, not always reacting. 1. Begin the day IN CONTROL. Don't listen to voicemail right away, don't check email right away - develop your plan for the day and (as someone suggested) spend at least one solid hour on a project that is important that requires your focus. 2. Turn off the 'ding' on your email and check it only a few times a day - and don't respond to everything if it's not important! 3. Schedule chunks of time in your day when you will not answer the phone or check email. Close the door to your office. Or go somewhere else. You have to take control of the reality around you, or you will get sucked into trivialities that do not impact your agenda. 4. In the last 15 minutes of your day, think about the five most important things you need to get done the next day. Write them down. This has a huge impact on keeping you focused on important things the next day. 5. As Peter Drucker says, 'Do first things first, and second things not at all.' Seriously, set your priorities and your 'posteriorities' and then don't do your posteriorities. Just stop doing the things that aren't important. And so many things we do aren't really important. Read those other books for more on this....
avitar.net - 4/23/2005 3:04:33 PM
Mason is right to a degree:

What you need to consider is what sort of balance are you looking for?

Pro-active isn't always better. For instance if someone is calling you back to follow up, and you were going to call them back anyways - then it is a moot point.

You should have a clear idea about what you need to accomplish before you walk into the office. Spending the first hour at your desk in quiet trying to define this is a good way to start.

If you spend time updating others though on the spot prepared 30 second speeches as you make your way through the lift, others will see that you are focused.
Mason - 4/22/2005 6:02:04 PM
Try this:

Arrive at office and spend first hour on whatever is the critical task of the day. DON'T OPEN YOUR E-MAIL INBOX. DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE.

Open your e-mail once in the morning. Handle all the e-mail in it. Close your e-mail.

Open your e-maail once in the afternoon. Handle all the e-mail in it. Close your e-mail for the day.

You'll be surprised how well this works. If you think of e-mail like a useful tool rather than like a TV blaring like a constant background distraction, you'll stop letting it eat up your time.


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