Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

There Is No Workday, Just Workbits

The organisations of the world expect their employees to come into the office and do great work. But there’s a problem.

Great work isn’t done in the office. It’s done some place else.

Some place quiet.

You see, the office is the home of interruptions.

Email, IM, meetings, and the notorious, “Hey! Quick question.”

Stepping into the office is like playing a game of snakes and ladders.

One moment you’re operating at peak performance and making headway. But once you’re interrupted, your attention is pulled back to square one.

You have to start over and you can’t go back to where you left off.

So until your focus returns to high gear, you’re unfit to do the work you’re paid to do.

You could say there’s no such thing as a workday. Just a jumble of workbits between distractions.

No wonder people like to work outside office hours or from home.

But not every organisation allows its employees to work remotely, because managers fear distractions of a different kind.

Things like Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

“How do we know if you’re working if we can’t see you?,” figures the traditional office chief.

But the enemy of meaningful work is not the latest viral cat video. That’s simply the modern day smoke break.

After a quick pick-me-up, we continue where we left off.

The real threat to a good day’s work are face-to-face interruptions that we can’t easily ignore.

Which was harmless when we were in the factory cranking out widgets.

But now most of us have complex office jobs, we need long interrupted chunks of time to do our work.

Yet how much time do you think the typical office worker has to herself on a workday?

You can count yourself lucky if you can even work one hour in peace.

With little time to focus, you’re left with two options.

Do you throw in the towel and embrace creating mediocre work for the rest of your professional life?

Or do you take matters into your own hands and produce great work that’s respected and rewarded?

To produce at your best, you can try the following.

Firstly, switch from talking in person to communicating through text.

Sure email is distracting. But colleagues are doubly so.

After all, you can choose when to check your email. But not when someone swings by your desk.

So shun your co-workers and love email.

Next, limit chit chat.

People will inevitably ignore your requests for communicating via email and come to you in person. 

Get them to the point instantly. If they stray, pull them back.

“John, sorry to interrupt, but I’m in the middle of something. Does this need my immediate attention or can you send me an email?”

Lastly, avoid all meetings without clear goals.

Did you get an invite to a meeting? Ask them to send you an email that explains the meeting’s purpose.

“Could you please send me the details of the meeting, including the topics and questions we want to tackle? Thanks.”

Most meetings are held without much thought. So expect fuzzy and poorly worded emails, or none at all.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach