It’s not that often that I come across peers in the workplace that are truly organised. What do I mean by purely organised? Well, people often confuse organisation with time management. They’re two different concepts and everyone’s work environment is different and unique. Time management is a dry topic, so let’s rather talk about how we organise and manage our 9–5.
Typically, work involves different focus areas. Each area could do with some “minimalism” with regards to how we go about tackling them. It’s important to understand that the suggestions below don’t work for every business. I come from a digital background. My opinions tend to be a tad bias with regards to using technology and working remotely. If the advice provided below doesn’t fit your business, adapt it to fit. Minimalists are natural adapters. Question the status quo, and do it differently.
Communication is hard. It’s complicated and there’s a lack of people who communicate well. If there is any area of life that minimalism is difficult to apply, it’s communication. More so than ever before in our digital world. Go back 50 years and you could only speak to someone in person or on the phone.
80% of human communication is unspoken. That’s a massive chunk that we lose out on when it comes to digital channels. Specifically text-based mediums. In saying that, how do we effectively communicate ideas with the 20% available to us? It’s an interesting and generally over-looked problem.
Like we didn’t have enough problems in the 21st century, email doesn’t help. Are you yet to come across a blog post instructing you to “Check emails twice a day“? Yeah. That worked for about a day. The day you missed all your meeting updates. Or the day you didn’t respond to an urgent email from a client for 4 hours. Like a lot of advice on the internet, it’s great in principle. Here’s what they don’t tell you:
- Urgent emails should get flagged as urgent, filtered and placed in a folder.
- No human is capable of concentrating for 4 hours straight a day. Chances are, the company you work for is paying you to be responsive. Don’t pretend that you aren’t. The average human being is capable of concentrating in spurts of 10–20m intervals. An hour tops if you’re well trained. Check your urgent folder once an hour. If there isn’t anything important; as you were.
- Some employee’s like to mass CC everyone in the office. If you’re part of one of those environments, switch off desktop notifications.
Slack is a great tool. The conversations that are had over Slack are far more valuable than email. Tracking conversations are easy, as well as purposeful. Having said that means that we are subject to a certain level of cognitive overload. The majority of the conversations within a Slack group don’t necessarily have anything to do with you. If they do, thankfully, you get notified. Here are some tricks to handle Slack better:
- Join channels that you provide value to, or you receive value from.
- Star important channels. Or channels where you feel you gain value/need to check up on every day or hour.
- Put notifications on silent for @channel and @here tags. Generally these notifications don’t apply specifically to you. Almost everyone has the power to publicly broadcast messages in Slack. Rather stay out of the line of fire.
- If the Slack app is on your phone, snooze notifications after work hours.
It’s all too easy to become distracted by casual or social chats in the office. It’s estimated that out of an 8 hour work day, the average employee does ~5.5 hours of work. With toilet breaks, chats, interruptions and unforeseen events, working can be a challenge. Be courteous to employees, but don’t get stuck in the middle of debates or conversations during work hours.
When it comes to outputting work, there are some considerations to make. Have you ever got to work with the best of intentions when it came to completing a task? I most certainly have. More often than not, do you succeed in completing the task at hand? The idea here is not to finish 8 hours work in 4. It’s about providing value. 30 minutes of purely focused work is far better than 2 hours of distracted work. To overcome this, I would suggest reading up on Deep Work.
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, he explains:
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
This is what we’re after. Depending on your professional skills, work-related tasks can be demanding. You want to make sure that you have your full attention on what you are focusing on. What better way to be minimal, than to focus your mind on one task that provides great value.
Inevitably, we reach the topic of time management. My advice here is not whether to run your business as Waterfall or Agile. I would say that it’s more important not to take on too much. In fact, the fewer tasks you complete that provide more value is a better approach. Why? Well, 3 crafted, well-thought-out, completed tasks are better than 10 shit ones.
Business is about providing value. Business owners tend to look at human beings as robots who are active 8 hours a day and output what they need them to. Well, we don’t.
Humans were never built for that kind of behaviour. Completing the same tasks on 2 different days can yield incredible discrepancies. No human being feels and behaves the same on any 2 given days and the expectation that that happens should not be the case either.
Less is more.
I couldn’t put it anymore elegantly than that. Consider reading up on Agile Project Management, if you find this interesting.
Completing a task is one thing. Working in a team is another ball game. Ego, opinion and emotion all get in the way of collaboration. Learning to communicate and not taking opinions personally is an award-winning combination. It’s okay for someone to have a difference of a opinion. Generally, the problem is compromise.
Compromise is the minimalists’ form of communication.
You don’t have to 100% right, neither does the other person. If you compromise 80 / 20, or 70 / 30, that’s what matters. All too often projects and careers get side-lined by poor collaboration. Depending on your personality type, this can have a greater effect on what is output. Or more importantly, what you output. Every human being is different. Each person’s input and output is different from the person standing next to him/her.
I’ve often found that it’s not “what” I say, its “how” I’ve said it. Be careful with your words. They are the ultimate minimalism that provide the most impactful value. Value, in this case is confidence boosting or confidence breaking. Here are some general rules to follow:
Use the Positive Sandwich, an example would be:
“I think the logo is great, but the font needs some work, could we work together to make it even better?”
Don’t defend yourself:
“I know the server crashed, but that’s, not my responsibility, its Johns.”
Rather say: “I’m aware the server crashed, I’m going to chat to John about making sure this doesn’t happen again in the future”
Don’t use elusive language:
“Let me check on this with someone who knows more about it”
Rather say: “I will check on this with someone who knows more about it”.
If you don’t want people to take your opinions or comments personally, don’t make it personal:
“I don’t think that this process is going to work for my team”.
“This process isn’t going to work for the team”, note how I’ve removed all references to a person.
Work is difficult. Communication is hard, but we can all do a lot more to make it more worthwhile, simpler and kinder.
One of the Eight Noble Paths of Buddhism is:
Abstinence from lies and deceptions, backbiting, idle babble and abusive speech. Cultivate honesty and truthfulness; practice speech that is kind and benevolent. Let your words reflect your desire to help, not harm others.
It’s described in a finely crafted, subtle way. Try to live more aligned to the above statement and your life will take an incredible turn. If you’ve enjoyed this article, please get in contact with me and share your thoughts, or feel free to reach out to me directly on Twitter: @dainemawer
Originally published at bminimal.blog on August 21, 2018.