Despite the somewhat hyperbolic title, it is possible to have a slow week. But for that to be true, it would indicate that you are reactive and that you’ve found a way to avoid doing your work. Because there is never an end of things that you need to do, you can’t have a slow week without it being a personal decision.
Living In Reactive Mode
The only way you can set up a slow week at work is to live in reactive mode, waiting for work to show up in your email inbox, waiting for a client to call and ask for something, or waiting for your leadership to provide you with a task or a project. To have a slow week, you have to fill the time between the prompts that cause you to work by passively waiting for some force to move you to work. The longer you wait, the slower your week.
The reasons one might live in reactive mode are many and varied, but there tend to be a couple of primary reasons. If you haven’t spent the time to review the work you need to do and planned it, it’s easy to slip into reactive mode. Starting the week without thoughtfully planning the week to ensure you have allotted time for what’s most important, the lack of a plan can cause you to wait for something—or someone—to move you.
You cannot have a slow week if you have reviewed your work, prioritized it based on the impact on your results, and planned your week by blocking time for the work that matters.
Avoiding Your Real Work
A slow week also requires that you avoid doing your real work. As a knowledge worker, you have a tremendous amount of autonomy to decide what you do, when you do it, and how you accomplish important outcomes. It’s unlikely your role requires you to wait for orders and directions to provide you with work.
Proactive work is different from reactive work. The project you need to start is going to require you to have to think, and it’s going to mean you will have to make decisions, decisions you may want to avoid. Some of the work is going to require you to engage with people who have different ideas, providing a bit of conflict that will have to be sorted out. The large, transformational project that is so important is also so much work, you avoid it, even though it is critical. Or perhaps you need to call prospective clients and ask them for meetings, a type of work that is inexhaustible.
Avoiding your real work doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it piles up. The longer you avoid the work, the more difficult it is to get started. Worse, you are pushing the result further into the future.
The Amount of Work You Do
The amount of work you do is a personal decision. You decide what and how much you get done in a single week. The effort you put into your work is also an individual choice you make. Some people produce more exceptional results faster than others because they have willed themselves to do their most important work and to invest in it their full focus and attention, generating a greater quantity and quality of the outcomes.
Whenever you choose, you can trade sitting in reactive mode for being an active role in determining what work you do, when you do it, and how you go about it. Your goals and your initiatives can be the internal force that prevents you from ever having to subject yourself to having someone have to ask you to do something that you should already be doing—or already have done. You can identify your priorities and plan and schedule your week in advance, preventive steps that ensure your week will not be slow, but will also move you closer to your goals.
Filling Your Week
If you fill your week with your most important work, the kind of work many resist, you will make real progress on what’s important, pulling those results towards you instead of pushing them further into the future. Even though you may have to make tough decisions and occasionally work through some conflict about ways or means, once you remove the obstacles, you can begin the work and make progress.
The decision as to whether you have a slow week or a productive week (which is not the same as a busy week, those two ideas being in direct conflict), is your decision to make. If you want to be productive with your time, you will prioritize your work and plan your week. Not only will your week not be slow, but it will also be incredibly productive.
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Filed under: Productivity