Do You Work Too Hard?

Do you get in early? Stay late? Eat lunch at your desk? Check email from bed? Do you take a lunch only when you’re drowning and just need to get out of the office? Is a burger, fries and a shake a reward for a grueling morning? Have you ever said, “I don’t want to live like this. This isn’t me."

Do you have more than you can reasonably fit on your plate? Do you basically handle whatever falls off? But only if it explodes? If you have ever asked,

“How do I deal with one thing after another blowing up in my face?

I need . . . something . . . because I am drowning. Wave after wave of work is knocking me down and the tide is coming in.”

I’ve been there too.

Over a quarter of a professional’s working day is spent emailing, 28%.

28% is spent emailing and email is open the rest of the day in case something potentially explosive comes through:

  • A short reply from the boss, asking about that deliverable
  • An unhappy client
  • Last week’s fire rearing its head, creating this week’s emergency

A study of employees at Cisco revealed that failing to respond to an email can lead to a swift breakdown in trust. Are you sitting on an unexploded time bomb?

The research: Major source of work related stress is the pull for timely response to emails.

Is email killing you? That might read like hyperbole; read on and decide for yourself. A study of British civil servants found that the rank and file employees were at greater health risk than higher ranking administrators. Chronic stress was the culprit. These employees were accountable for outcomes where they had little authority, influence or control. Negative outcomes appeared, as if at random, outside of their control and influence. The result, chronic stress.

Often the sources of stress are small and varied, but chronic stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death, a slow death by a thousand papercuts. It’s not a huge leap to see that many of those small and varied stressors are coming from your inbox.

How does our work culture respond to this threat? Researchers have coined the term telepressure to describe the urge to respond immediately to email. I guess you can’t cure it ‘til you name it first. This urge includes thinking about emails that need to be written. As a result, says Larissa K. Barber, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, “You have trouble cognitively letting it go.”

I've been there. The research is helpful. But it only confirms I'm not the only one that struggles with email, but that is not a solution. Managing email is a significant part of work. For my own sanity I went looking for a process to get my inbox under control because there had to be an easier way.

Getting Things Done.

Have you heard of David Allen’s Getting Things Done? GTD for short. I’ve never read his book because my first exposure to his material was an MP3 download of the GTD LIVE Two Day Seminar. David Allen offers an introductory GTD course thru LinkedIn Learning. It’s an introduction to the theory and general practices. It’s not bad. But if you want to really master the skill, it will only get you started. You will need something else to get into the details and best practices. If $99 and two days is too much, an alternative is this Inbox Zero course from Udemy. I like it because it is highly specific, actionable, and it’s video instruction. This course wasn’t around when I was figuring this stuff out, but this is exactly what I did in my gmail.

The GTD LIVE Two Day Seminar is fantastic! Skip the book. I highly recommend this seminar. At $99 it is pricy but, I have listened to it again and again. As David Allen says, the process is iterative. It isn't all or nothing. You can apply parts of it. You can learn, apply, and grow. Then repeat.

The Two Minute Rule

One of the biggest takeaways from David Allen is the two minute rule. Do anything that takes less than two minutes right away the first time it is in your face. It’s surprising how many things you put off that can get done in two minutes or less. For example, wash your dishes immediately after you eat, toss the laundry in the washing machine, take out the garbage . . . invest in yourself . . . invest in your time.

Buy the seminar. You have two minutes.

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