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The chaos of work – why you are struggling to get valuable work done

You are spending most of your time in meetings of little value.

Your inbox is overflowing and you are treating it like your to-do list.

Instant messages are coming in interrupting you from what you are trying to do.

You are working long hours and weekends to catch up as it’s the only time you can concentrate on getting work done.

You are not alone. This is sadly very common in today’s workplace and is causing stress and significant underperformance for individuals and teams.

The problem is your workflow is broken which is severely impacting your work execution time.

Cal Newport in his book “A World Without Email” defines what we call “work” in two parts. “Work Flow” and “Work Execution”.

Work Execution

The act of doing the work that delivers the value

Cal Newport

For example, this could be launching your new marketing campaign, releasing a new update to some software, or rolling out a new intranet to employees. This is the execution of the value-adding activities. Actually delivering what you are being paid to do, using your specialist skills to deliver value, activities that are doing the actual work.

Work Flow

How these activities are identified, assigned, coordinated and reviewed

Cal Newport

This includes emails requesting work, a project plan you are following, meetings where you have picked up tasks (whether you were at the meeting or not!), an urgent demand from the Chief Exec.

This is not doing the work this is how the work comes to your attention.

This is a really important difference to understand.

Meetings and emails are talking about work – not doing work.

The problem you are facing as are many others is the Work Flow is dysfunctional and we are wrestling with it for most of our time, resulting in very little time left for actual work execution. This isn’t necessarily your fault though, it’s more likely how the organisation runs due to the dominance of email, instant messaging and cultural behaviour.

Cal’s research has found that knowledge workers send and receive an estimated 126 messages every day and they check their inboxes once every 6 minutes. How scary is that?

So what about meetings? I hope you are sitting down for this…

Ineffective meetings make professionals lose 31 hours every month, which makes up around 4 working days each month.

95% of meeting attendees lose focus and miss parts of the meeting, while 39% doze off at meetings.

More than 35% of employees found that they waste 2 to 5 hours per day on meetings and calls, but they achieve nothing to show for it.

Timely, HR Digest, Harvard Business Review, and Condeco.

We are spending most of our time in an incredibly ineffective Work Flow mode and hardly any time in Work Execution mode.

Digital Rebels recently surveyed communications professionals from over 35 organisations and the figures were stark.

  • 89% said they were spinning too many plates
  • 79% said they had no time to measure the outcomes of their work
  • 52% said they were tasked with work they didn’t agree with as the right thing to do

So what can you and your teams do?

Organise the chaos. Get control of the Work Flow to get back time for more Work Execution.

Leveraging techniques from the software development industry where work is very complex, high risk, and with endless opportunities for things to work on you can transform your effectiveness at work, lower your stress levels and get your weekends and evenings back.

I’ve been where you are and saw first-hand the transformational effect it had on my previous team’s effectiveness, morale and reputation. They went from a team that wasn’t trusted, rarely delivered, and were continually stressed out spinning multiple plates to a team that was award winning, in high demand to help solve organisation-wide problems, and delivering regular measurable transformation impact to customers.

You need to get work opportunities out from all the places it is lurking, your inbox, in meeting actions, in instant messages, in customer insights date, in water cooler conversations and get it into a single prioritised list. This will give you transparency with your bosses, allow you to feel less stressed and ensure you are always working on the highest value work at any point in time.

Organise the chaos

But this is only one-third of it. You also need to change your mindset and leverage digital tools to your advantage.

This is why we have developed the Digital Rebels method to help knowledge workers and teams like you.

The Digital Rebels Method

The Digital Rebels Method to help train and coach knowledge workers

Covering four key areas, Mindset, Method, Mastery and Network we believe these are the key aspects to master in order to get control of your workflow, become high performing at work and finish work satisfied each day.

We’ve created a free simple scorecard to help you understand where your biggest challenges lie in these areas and what you can do about them. It will take you a couple of minutes to complete and you’ll get a free personalised report emailed to you straight away with actionable steps you can take to begin to take back control of your work flow and get much more time for work execution. After all, that’s what you have been employed to do and you enjoy the most right?!

Posted in: Agile , Leadership , Productivity , Wellbeing