Boundaries are super important, especially in the digital work era. Yet, most companies and individuals don’t even speak about them. The global culture of being constantly busy has taken over most workplaces worldwide. Fake productivity, relying on having a fully booked calendar and adding “asap” to every other message seems to be a symbol of achievers. At the same time, the pressure towards companies to allow working from home keeps increasing. Employees shift to a “flexible” working schedule with no training or mindset shift concerning this new way of working. They simply take their laptops and after some time, they feel overworked, overwhelmed, and tired. But why? Workplace flexibility was supposed to be the golden ticket towards ensuring a top employee experience. So…what is going wrong?

Does the digital era kill our productivity?

Do you sometimes work long hours but there’s a sudden notification that is just too tempting? Do you click it? Welcome to the club. It’s a common scenario as our entire lives are in our laptops. Work, social relations, news, commitments, alerts, shopping lists, newsletters – everything is accessible with just one click. It’s so easy to forget about boundaries, right? We automatically go ahead without thinking about the price that we’re going to pay… Consequently, our brain processes about 74GB of information per day and that’s about 16 movies! So, would you be able to watch 16 movies within one day? I don’t think so. Would you remember all of them? Absolutely not. And that’s what’s actually happening to all of us on a daily basis. Now, if we add distractions that take about 2 hours every day, we’ll see that our working habits are far from perfect. Whose fault is this? Well, that’s beside the point. We’re not looking for the culprit but we’re trying to understand how we can help ourselves become more focused, happy and productive.

Taking into account the above mentioned, it’s easy to figure out that an 8 hour working day is an illusion. The digital era isn’t the same as being an assembly worker who can process a certain number of parts within one hour. The situation is much more complicated. That’s why I can’t stop wondering when I see companies that don’t help employees in adapting to focus on quality work, mastering boundaries and planning their daily tasks. They simply “allow” people to be flexible without even explaining what this idea is supposed to mean. Then, in the end of the day there’s mutual frustration that I hear all the time, trust me. Employers claim that they’re unsure about employee engagement and productivity. Employees complain that endless meetings have taken over their days and managers delegate work based on their own assumptions.

Look at productivity with a touch of common sense

It’s been a while since I’ve started giving online workshops about the Eisenhower matrix. It’s a prioritization, and time-management framework that classifies tasks according to importance and urgency. To be completely honest – I didn’t consider using it on my own until I started being flooded with endless tasks and distractions. They were driving me crazy. Keeping my laptop open for many hours per day wouldn’t bring me closer to getting things done. Do you also feel this way? Or do you think your team may be facing such challenges? If yes, then let me share how I’ve started changing my working days for the better.

Gone are the days of headaches and asap responses just to fool ourselves that we’ve had a super busy and productive day.

Now, I’d like you to take a pen and paper. Draw a chart with four fields. In the first field, please write down all the tasks that are important and urgent. Then in the second one, everything that is important and not urgent. Use the next one for urgent and not important things. The last one is all about the stuff that’s both not urgent and not important at all. Think about your day or even your week. What field is super full? I bet it’s the “important and urgent” one.

Rethink your priorities wisely

Based on what you’ve just filled out – I’d like you to take a look at your working routine. Are all the things super important and urgent? If that’s the case then… at least we know what’s not working so well. Try to take a deeper look into all four categories and re-evaluate everything that you’ve just written. Focus on yourself, your working pace and your own interests by taking into account the following aspects:

  • Is this important for me or for someone else?
  • Is this my priority or someone else’s priority?
  • Does this directly affect me or someone else?
  • Is this my responsibility or someone else’s?
  • What are the consequences of doing this task?
  • By when do I need to deliver my work?
  • How does this add value to my daily routine?

Example 1: Your colleague doesn’t know how to edit a document. They asked you to help them out. And this scenario becomes quite frequent. Consequently, you work late more often as you prioritised their work before yours. Someone’s got problems with boundaries…

Example 2: You keep checking sale newsletters several times a day but you have never bought anything from all those sources… So it’s rather nonsense and a waste of time, right?

Example 3: You have to deliver a monthly report and you’re already stressed out as it’s the last day of the month… Well, maybe you could have started working on a bit earlier? It was so predictable – come on!

Example 4: Your Facebook friend is eating breakfast. The best spots for mulled wine in Switzerland. The current surface of the Indian Ocean… Wait. Do you REALLY need to know this? 

Good luck with starting to free your mind and schedule from unimportant tasks and useless information. It’s not going to happen over night but it’s certainly a process. Start now and do this exercise once again in a few weeks/months to see how boundaries and planning improve your daily productivity. Fingers crossed!


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