When Office Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized
HOW do you think most workers would respond if you asked them, “Do you feel more productive now than you did several years ago?” I doubt that the answer would be a resounding yes. In fact, even as workplace technology and processes steadily improve, many professionals feel less productive than ever.
It may seem a paradox, but these very tools are undermining our ability to get work done. They are causing us to become paralyzed by the dizzying number of options that they spawn.
Is there a way out of this quandary? Yes, but it’s not going to come from the usual quarters. To be successful in the new world of work, we need to create a structure for capturing, clarifying and organizing all the forces that assail us; and to ensure time and space for thinking, reflecting and decision making.
Most professionals are still using their subjective, internal mental worlds to try to keep it all together, but that’s a poor way to navigate the new work environment. It results in unclear, distracted and disorganized thinking, and leaves frustration, stress and undermined self-confidence in its wake.
Workers need a set of best practices that is sorely lacking in the professional world. Without it, we are seeing a growing angst — even a sense of desperation — in the workplace, as more employees feel that there is no rest and no way out. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see resurging interest in Sartre’s books and Beckett’s plays as a result.)
These are the kinds of comments I hear in my work as a consultant:
• “I’m overwhelmed, and with all the changes going on here, it’s getting worse. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do my job.”
• “I have new responsibilities that demand creative and strategic thought, but I’m not getting to them.”
• “I have too many meetings to attend, and I can’t get any ‘real’ work done.”
• “I have too many e-mails, and, given day-to-day urgencies, the backlog keeps growing.”
• “I feel like I’m not giving the right amount of attention to what’s most important.”
And here’s a common kicker, for those willing to admit it:
“I just can’t keep going like this.”
One could argue that these kinds of complaints are as old as work itself, and that no matter how productive we are, we’ll always find something to grumble about. That’s human nature. But a closer examination of these grievances reveals that they all relate to a sense of suboptimal performance. The core message is, “I don’t feel good about what I’m not getting done.”