Posted by Mark Richards
We’re busy people, busier than we’ve ever been. We’re stuffing 30 hours of responsibility into 24-hour days. The truth of the matter is that we’ve got lots to do, but it’s hard to get done. With the distraction created by text messages, phone calls, and emails, accomplishing the day’s work can become difficult.
A vision for the future
In 1930, John Maynard Keynes, a British economist, published an essay called “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.” In it, he made the prediction that seemed natural at the time. It’s probably a prediction that many today would agree with for our own future.
His prediction, in a nutshell, was that advances in technology would create a future that would eliminate the need for work.
For a man born in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, it must have been an exercise of the imagination to consider the world as it was only one hundred years before, when machinery in its modern form simply didn’t exist. For Keynes to imagine 1750 is much like a modern American trying to imagine living through the Civil War – a time without electricity in the home, without entertainment in your pocket, a time when pneumonia and tuberculosis were as likely to kill you as anything else.
Nonetheless, it was a good prediction, maybe even one that should’ve come true. Clearly, however, it did not.
The modern reality
Although we do work slightly less now than we did in the past, we’re still overburdened and frustrated with our responsibilities. One of the biggest reasons for that truth is the very technology that should have freed us from our labors.
Email specifically is responsible for a great burdening in our work lives. Each day we wake up with a to-do list, those tasks which must be accomplished before the day is through. At the completion of each task, we get to scratch off one item. But – if we checked our email recently – we find that there are now two more to be completed.
An email is nothing more than an intrusion to your workday. It’s an unsolicited addition to your to-do list, forced upon you by the sender.
Fulfilling Keynes’ vision
It may not be possible (in this lifetime) to successfully reduce yourself to merely three or four hours of work per week, but you can certainly strive towards a lightened load.
The first thing to do is to recognize the innovative tools in your possession for what they truly are: tools. Their design is intended to assist and benefit you. If, instead, you’re faced with a burden, then you’re probably using them wrong.
To help remedy this situation, I have a suggestion. Instead of a lengthy to-do list, create a to-don’t list. On it, place all of the technological distractions that keep you from completing your work efficiently. The number one item on your new list? Email.
Whenever possible, reserve emails for the beginning or end of each day. In doing so, you can adjust your to-do list and start each day with a predetermined number of tasks. If you do check your emails throughout the day, don’t feel pressured to deal with each one all at once. You’re better off checking them now and resolving to deal with them all at once, later. That’s how you use the tool to your benefit. If we all adopt this habit, maybe our grandchildren really won’t have so much work to do.Read More