Some years ago before the proliferation of cell phones, a certain manager requested me to call him past 6 p.m using his direct office line so that we could discuss our business without interruptions.
Later over lunch I asked him why he preferred to work late in the office. He told me to succeed in his field, he had to work either very early in the morning or later after normal office working hours. He preferred to work late and have a good sleep in the morning before reporting to the office at 8.30 a.m refreshed to start another busy day.
He said if I went to his office during the day, I would find a long queue of people waiting to see him over different issues, both private and official.
This consumes most of his time such that if he does not spare time outside normal working hours, he would not have time to work on his core roles and responsibilities as well as develop himself.
It was not until I started my own business and became its manager that I appreciated his perspective on this matter.
Every day, even before you reach the office, you are bombarded with incessant demands, messages and issues that require your immediate attention. Think of all the emails, internal memos, text messages, voice mails, twitter messages, Facebook posts, phone calls, Skype calls, WhatsApp and so on, that are sent your way simultaneously. This is in addition to people who come in person to meet you!
So how do we respond? The tendency is to respond either to the latest or the most pressing and attend to the person who makes the loudest noise. The end result is some important things are left unattended and you personal growth is stunted. You sacrifice your aspirations, goals, core functions and visions at the altar of current demands.
You slip into what is called “reactionary workflow”. This is a situation where you spend all your working time reacting to incoming issues and fail to take and complete any worthwhile initiative or project.
Incidentally this also happens with your money. You spend all your money addressing oncoming demands such as bills, helping others and fail to allocate or save for important projects of your own and blame it all on scarcity or poor income.
Most people, whether employed or working in whatever capacity, are unproductive because they are trapped in “reactionary workflow”.
To set yourself free from “reactionary workflow” is crucial for growth and development. It is not easy but it is possible.
First set aside some huge blocks of time. I often do this when I am writing or trying to complete an urgent project. Get somewhere where there is no disruption, preferably in a hotel away from office at home and switch off all disruptive gadgets and settle down to work. This is if you cannot work late at night or early in the morning. I call this having an appointment with yourself. This is possible because you always honour appointments with others and avoid disruptions especially in court, church or important meetings.
Secondly, maintain a diary and to-do list and follow it devotedly. Have time allocated for each activity. Let your staff and external visitors know you have specific days and time to see people and do certain things so that they don’t throng your office all the time. On your part, stick to your to-do list and only make calls, check emails or respond to them at a specific time.
Thirdly, empower your staff to handle things that they can handle and only respond to things that can only be addressed by you.
Finally learn the art of knowing what is important in your life and prioritize it at whatever cost.