Daftest, best productivity tip

I promise you this is the best tip you’ll hear all week unless you boss has just said you’ll be fired if you don’t pull your finger out. Actually, when you’ve read my tip you might even prefer your boss as he or she is at least succinct and pithy. My advice is long-winded and a chore – but the chore is the thing.

Just pretend for a moment that this works. Starting the next morning you get to your desk, write down what you do and the exact time. Everything you do.

What do I mean by everything? EVERYTHING.

Every time you do it. Every and every. No exceptions. Yes, even “Went to Loo”. “Skived off to write CV behind boss’s back”.

If you’re thinking that’s a waste of time, yep. It is. You’ll end up with an enormous list of utter trivial nonsense – “10:19 Slammed phone down on another sodding PPI call” – but the list will be enormous. It will be far more than you expect and you will have done at least substantially more than you would normally. The time it takes to write that line down is more than made up for by how you start getting twitchy when too many minutes have gone by without doing anything.

You’ll find yourself thinking I can phone Burt, I can email Susan, I can look up that account mess. Suddenly things you’ve put off or just not got around to become these quick things you can do for your list. So you do them and guess what? They’re done.

You will go insane if you do this every day but in emergencies when you’re overwhelmed and feeling like you aren’t capable of doing the job you were hired for, adding this extra burden relieves you. It makes you concentrate on the right here and now instead of the big picture and you need that.

By the way, I cheat. I use TextExpander to pop in the date and time. You knew there’d be technology somewhere. But there doesn’t have to be. A pen will do.

18 June 2015 – 09:00 Stopped nicking articles from my own Blank Screen newsletter

Ewww. That person on your conference call is probably also on the loo

At the same time. I suppose you should count yourself lucky if he or she has at least muted the call first.

I don’t run any conference calls, I don’t think, but I take part in enough of them and I have been caught doing something I shouldn’t. Not that. It’s not like that. I have had a habit of writing something while on the call and, believe it or not, the vibration of my typing has somehow got through to the others. Busted, I believe is the phrase.

But I haven’t gone to the loo during one. I haven’t muted any. (I was once on the loo when Tony Robinson phoned me back about a Radio Times article but I shuffled to my office so fast that nobody ever found out.)

Apparently, though, I’m less than common in all this:

More than 60 percent of Intercall’s respondents admitted to doing other work or sending an email while on a conference call. More than half the people on the line are eating (hopefully on mute). Just under half are in the bathroom (hopefully on mute!). One in five are shopping. One in 11 are exercising. Six percent are taking another call. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about looking up Clayton Kershaw’s ERA+.

The academic literature doesn’t say that meetings are intrinsically pointless. After all, that conclusion wouldn’t make any sense. There are some questions that require input from entire teams, or from individuals from multiple divisions, and it would be absurd to call for dozens of one-on-one meetings rather than call a single get-together.

Study: Nobody is Paying Attention on Your Conference Call – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic (21 August 2014)