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Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work

It is common to hear people, especially nowadays, complain that they have so much work to do that they’re pulling long night and weekend hours just to stay near the surface. Are these people working anywhere between 10-18+ hour days because they really have that much work? Maybe so. Or maybe it is because we’ve become accustomed to not being able to get actual work done while we’re at work.

This inability to get work done during the workday isn’t because of laziness or procrastination. It happens for many reasons but the main culprits include broken meetings and our addiction to interruptions. We’re also a society that is constantly connected and tools such as Twitter, Facebook and email make it even harder to disconnect.

A recent survey from Xobni even shows that 59 percent of employed Americans will be check work email during traditional family holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas while 79 percent report receiving work-related emails during these holidays.

It leads me to question how we actually break this cycle so we can get back to doing work at work and spending more time disconnected, recharging and spending time with our friends and family. Even if you’re not disconnecting, if you’re going to be doing work outside of the office, it shouldn’t be because you’re stuck in meetings all day. If you’re working after-hours, it should be because you’re putting in extra time on your projects or on improving the service that you’re providing to your clients and customers.

Jason Fried of 37Signals and the author of Rework (affiliate link) recently tackled this topic during a TEDxMidwest where he discusses that the main problems are M&Ms (yes, M&Ms but not what you’re thinking) and offers a few suggestions on how to breakthrough this problem and get back to getting work done at work.

If you can’t view this video, you can find it over on the TED website here.

What’s your take? Do you have this problem at your office? Do you need to be
workshifting to get anything done?

While you’re at it, don’t forget to realize the value of time and that being a big deal really isn’t such a big deal.

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  • Matt Medeiros

    I’m always tweaking the way I manage my time. I’m also trying to master the art of knowing when to disconnect and get back to the human relationships around me. I really see an increase in productivity when I’m not going for those extended hours.

  • Ryantsauers

    I think your post is right on target. We have all “like the frog getting used to the boiling water” gotten used to working 24-7 and never fully disconnecting. Tools/technology and stimuli will continue to develop that will make this even worse in the years ahead. We must set boundaries for ourselves and try to do “our”work during “work hours.” It is not a badge of honor to work yourself to death. Great post here! Ryan Sauers

  • Brett Miller

    Jason does propose some unusual ideas, but they do have validity.

    Every individual is unique as are the methods that will allow them to be the most productive. Companies need to allow individuals the flexibility to work in their own effective style within the companies overall structure.

    Brett Miller

  • Vee Sweeney

    It’s even harder for those who work out of their home office. Being distracted in an office environment is easy enough, but working from home adds on about 20 million distractions that you would not encounter in an actual outside of the home environment. Personally, if I don’t answer the phone right away, my relatives think the worst, I always get asked for favors since I am “home” during the day. Then the kids get home from school, the cat is trying to make the keyboard her personal den etc etc. It sounds funny to write about or think about, but it causes a lot of procrastination and distraction sometimes.