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The lights are on (ii)

Last week, I wrote about a vexing problem for many knowledge workers: Disengagement from work. Sometimes, despite your most well-meaning efforts, you zone out from work because you have either failed to find value in what you do or the work no longer challenges you. If you currently find yourself in this scenario, all is not lost. There are some steps you can take to re-engage with what you do.

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The lights are on (i)

“Well I should have thought that being bored stiff for three quarters of the time was an excellent preparation for working life.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby (From Yes, Prime Minister)

No matter what line of work you are in, it is essential that you are able to see some value in what you do. Those who do not, quickly become disengaged. Disengaged workers aren’t productive. They come to work not because they want to but because they have to. They are more likely to show up and zone out. Someone I worked with once joked about team members who logged on to the weekly staff meeting, muted their mics and continued watching tv series. I find that a perfect working definition of a disengaged worker. For them, the weekly meeting had become something to be endured but not to be engaged with.

Broadly speaking, I’d say workers disengage because of two reasons:

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Work-life balance vs Work-life integration

For the longest time, personal productivity experts have advocated the achievement of work-life balance as the pinnacle of productivity. They argued that work should be treated as a separate space disconnected from personal life. The productive worker, they said, was one who completed their tasks for the day before closing time, clocked out and went home to spend time with their family. Work was not to be touched at home until they returned to the office the next day. This sharp separation of work and personal life was easier to achieve before the advent of the internet when workers were generally unreachable after office hours.

Stacked stones
Are your work and life in balance?
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What are you measuring: business or busyness?

In a famous scene from the 1999 Comedy, Office Space, Protagonist Peter Gibbons admits to two Management Consultants that in a given week, he only does about 15 minutes of actual work. It might be amusing to ponder why he hasn’t been fired but the truth is the average office worker can become quite skilled at appearing busy. If you have ever walked into a government office and were confronted by a Staff sitting behind a table covered with files, you probably have an idea what I mean. The files themselves might not have been touched in months but it gives the Staff an excuse to pull one of them and pretend to be reviewing some important detail anytime a visitor walks in.

Not busyness
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By whose standards?

Three years ago, I was managing a project to teach young people digital skills. One aspect that we invariably touched upon was healthy use of social media. Social media has evolved to become a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s useful for staying in touch with family and friends, receiving quick information and for advertising products. On the other hand, social networks can be huge time wasters, have contributed to decreasing attention spans and can give people a very warped sense of what life is like. Perhaps the most insidious harm social media can do is to create the illusion that other people are achieving great deeds within short periods of time and everyone else who isn’t is a failure.

Bul
How do you tell fact from fiction?
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Work from home: yay or nay

The Pandemic changed the way we live and work. Companies made annual plans at the end of 2019 and ended up shelving them as governments around the world instituted lockdown policies that made the usual way of working impossible. Eventually, many had to explore new ways to deliver services. Work From Home (WFH) went from being a feel-good experiment that HR occasionally tried to a crucial element of organisational survival. Some industries fared better than others. Workers also responded differently to the new way of working. Some took to the new freedom like a fish to water. Others not so well.

There are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
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One hour each day

If you were to google “Personal productivity” right now, a recurrent topic that would come up would be time management. We all have the same 24 hours a day yet not everyone gets the same returns from their 24 hours. This is because time management is actually a misnomer. You can’t manage time. It’s always there and it’s always flowing even if you aren’t doing anything. What you can manage are tasks and by extension, your priority.

Time never stops
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You will have bad productivity days

Since you are reading a personal productivity blog, I can safely assume you want to be more effective at what you do. There are plenty of articles out there on how to stay at the top of your productivity game. However, not enough of them mention what to do on days nothing seems to go right.

Murphy’s Law
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Three Books you should read

This week’s post will be different from all those that came before it. For the first time, I won’t be providing any tips on personal productivity. Instead, I’d like to share three books that I have read and I recommend everyone serious about becoming more effective at what they do should also read. In no specific order, I give you:

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Know the difference between a fact and a problem

Procrastination takes many forms. Sometimes, it hides in the form of a fact disguised to look like a problem. Think of a lazy Saturday Morning towards the end of a month. You need to withdraw some cash from the ATM. Your bank is about a 30-minute drive away. However, you are still at home lying in bed and staring at the ceiling because you know salaries got paid yesterday and there will likely be a long queue at the machine. It’s also a weekend. Therefore, chances are the machine will run out of cash before it gets to your turn.

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