Make today a “Focus Day”

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If you’ve even spent 11 minutes inside most white-collar offices, you’d know the term “productivity planner” is — at best — a massive buzzword. Most offices are set up around the idea that “busy” somehow is the same thing as “productive” (it’s not). This tends to lead to an over-focus on the quantity of work getting done (“I’m so slammed!”), as opposed to any indications of quality. In short: a lot of people use their time very poorly at work.

Now combine this with the second problem at work: unclear priorities. Execs want growth. They screech about new revenue streams, and front-line managers “pivot” to work on those ideas — even though 11 hours prior, they were told something else was a priority. The people who report to those front-line managers have absolutely no clue what is happening; statistically, it’s about 95 percent of them that can’t ID the company’s strategy. Meanwhile, these middle/front-line managers are mostly relevance-chasers. Their bottom-line impact is basically negative. All in all, you create a situation where 7 in 10 employees have no idea what to work on next.

Productivity planner? Hardly.

“Run in circles on this project for me,” a middle manager meows. Is that productive?

Can we make this better? Well, we can at least try.

How productivity planning should look

Important element №1: understand that each day of work is different. You should not be doing the exact same tasks on a Monday as on a Friday, because your energy levels and connection to work are different.

Important element №2: breaks are OK. We’re not machines. We’ll eventually get replaced by machines, yes, but we ourselves are not them.

Work cannot be a series of semi-connected hair on fire moments, but for many, it unfortunately is. (Ever had a boss who jams you up with a lot of “tight deadlines” or “sense of urgency” projects? That simply means they’re bad managers.)

A “hack” for productivity planning

It’s called a “Focus Day.” This idea is vaguely similar to “batching tasks,” but has some advantages. Here’s how it’s described in one article:

What makes this different than task batching is that you schedule out your Focus Day far in advance. It’s not just looking at your calendar and saying, “Okay, I’ll carve out two hours for myself tomorrow for sure” — because tomorrow is way too late. Something else will inevitably pop up to sideline your plan. Instead, you need to have a recurring, definite appointment with yourself, blocked out on your calendar, week after week. That way, it’s a lot harder to stand yourself up.

OK, cool. So let’s talk logistics.

How would one set up a “Focus Day?”

Step 1: Pick a day of the week (probably Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday).

And then: just block some uninterrupted work time in your calendar.

No one will mess with the time once it’s there, except maybe an exec/VP once in a blue moon.

Now you have a “Focus Day” to do deeper, long-term, actually-relevant projects. That was pretty easy, right?

What happens when someone barges in and needs my time, though?

Lie to them and say you have a meeting with so-and-so of high rank. Feel bad about lying? Don’t. Workplaces are literally constructed on an intricate web of lies. We’re all ringing the same bells ultimately.

Minimize your email. Don’t look at it during your Focus Day period.

Close your door if need be; or do your Focus Day from a coffee shop (claim “off-site meeting”) or home, then go in.

Look, it’s like this: there’s real shit you gotta get done in a job. And then there’s all this trifling shit people heap on you because, well, they don’t want to do it themselves. In a semi-functional work environment, the real shit gets you perks, bonuses, promotions, etc.

The trifling shit just makes you a target-humping workhorse.

No one respects the target-humping workhorse. They just throw no-context deliverables over the fence at such a person and hope they get done.

People look up to those who do the real shit. So if you want the scratch, find a way to isolate and focus on priorities. That’s being a productivity planner. Answering a bunch of emails? No.

What else would you add on being a real productivity planner?

I’m all ears. If you do fear automation and shifting job markets/roles, well, it would stand to reason we can beat that back by being more productive and value-add with our time. That would require a certain degree of being a productivity planner and having control of your calendar, as opposed to just doing willy-nilly projects.

So, any hot/spit takes on the idea of being a productivity planner?

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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