Instead of an early start, with time to read the news, check key messages, and write uninterruptedly for a pending project, I spent it down a rabbit hole. What I expected was a five or ten minute interruption to answer a client’s email, marked with one of those urgent exclamation points, but it took me over an hour. Before I could even send the requested information, I got an email telling me, in essence, “never mind,” the direction had changed.
Situations like this happen to all of us. Sometimes we’re sent down rabbit holes by someone we work for, or with, gobbling our time with little to show for it. But much more often, we send ourselves on our own long, winding paths, exploring offshoots and falling into semi-connected rabbit holes of links, information, and interesting “stuff.”
Responders to a 2014 “Wasting Time at Work” survey by Salary.com named “Google” as the top online time-waster. Add to that other time-wasters like back and forth email communications and unproductive meetings, plus a host of others. For 89 percent of those surveyed, who admitted wasting time at work, some of those “other” ways included March Madness, Facebook, LinkedIn, and online shopping.
In that same year, two-thirds of employees reported “feeling overwhelmed” according to Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, with too much to do and too little time to do it. While 89 percent of us are “wasting time” at work, most of us are still feeling too busy? What gives?
The dichotomy is that both are true. Constantly being connected, an “always on” lifestyle, and reduction of barriers between work and home, means we can no longer easily divide our lives into separate “work” and “home” tasks. The lines are blurred. And because they are, people who are winning at working occasionally answer important text messages or emails from home, handle the critical off-hours problem, or put in extra time evenings or weekends to finish an important project after the kids are in bed.
More and more our life is being blended and our work has changed. As barriers between work and home continue to blur, people who are winning at working know that to make their blended life work, the blur has to occur in both directions. This requires a new way to think about time and results in both spheres.
Those who are winning at working think of it as a time exchange. They’re not “wasting” time to occasionally check a sports score, answer a personal message, or take care of something non-work related while at work, because the same is true in reverse when at home.
Yet, operating well in this blended life, where lines blur from time to time between work and home and home and work, requires new skills for new times. So, if you want to be winning at working in this new world, you’ll need to master the art of self-managing for two reasons. First, there will always be rabbit holes and time-wasters. You can’t get great results in a world with constant interruptions, interesting internet rabbit holes to explore, mobile apps to try, more information than you can possibility absorb, consider, and read, and more interesting activities than you can ever do in a lifetime – without first knowing how to manage yourself.
Second, those who will thrive and be winning at working for the long-term, will be those who are able to focus on the “right stuff” at the right time, inject balance into their own lives and relationships, apply their talents, optimize their time, and contribute and add value regardless of where they live, who they work for, what technology they use, or what they do for a living. In this blurred world, no matter who signs your paycheck, you now work for yourself and your time is your life’s currency.