A reactive/reflecting perspective about work
Working from home in this pandemic got me wondering about multitasking, productivity and that work-life balance that everyone talks about. The same room is currently being a space for office virtual meetings, writing, cooking, parenting, sports, meditation or sex. Are we working from home or are we home working?
Talking to a friend from Austria that happens to be a business coach, he pointed out a tricky thing about working from home as it gives us the false feeling of increased productivity.
Are we really getting much more productive? Or is it just the fact that we actually work a lot more? How many of you get up early to connect directly into meetings without enjoying an hour of natural light, fresh coffee, and breakfast without checking all the phone notifications? How many of you skip lunch “just to send this email” and finish the day feeling like after a marathon even if you sat on the same chair for hours?
From Nir Eyal, author of “Indistractible”, I’ve acknowledged that we practice two kinds of work: “reactive” and “reflective” work.
Reactive work is addressing the pings, rings, and dings. It’s attending meetings, responding to emails, and taking phone calls. Most people’s days are filled to the brim with reactive work. It demands their attention and makes people feel productive.
But we also need time for reflective work.
Reflective work is where the problem-solving and creative work gets done. It’s where we make plans for the future and it has to happen without interruption. If you don’t make time to work without distraction, you are letting distraction trick you into prioritizing the urgent at the expense of the important.
When you only spend time reacting, your mental capacity is filled with multitasking, so you lose focus to plan and follow what actually needs to be done. When you spend your time on firefighting, you don’t have time or energy to think about your goals or have a broad perspective about your current situation.
Many opportunities might be missed in this way. And I am sure we don’t get paid just to do stuff, but also to think.
So, why aren’t we booking time, especially for this, for the reflective aspect of work?
Sure, the outcomes are the ones that matter, and you might think that reflective work can’t be quantified.
But, the truth is you can’t come with smart outcomes from continuous mindlessly reactive work. We aren’t robots programmed for an automated time frame.
So, why should we book some time for reflective work? Because we don’t want to guess and go blindly into tasks. We want hypotheses and facts, things that could build a solid structure of ideas. And smart, conscientious decisions.