Professional Un-productivity

20070227overload.jpgAs mentioned before, the task of comparing one worker to another in terms of their productivity has become much harder.

However, the results of examining their in-box can give a good insight into how productive they are. In other words, a person who has an in-box of thousands of items is less productive than one who maintains less than 10 at any time.

(If you are immediately offended by this assertion, then stay tuned…)

What is the reasoning behind this statement?

To put it simply, a “full” in-box is a sign of very low mastery of the 2Time fundamental components.

But, what is the problem with having 100 or 1000 or 10,000 email items in an in-box? Is it even a problem worth considering?

Yes, it’s a problem and here is why. Contained in that in-box is a combination of different time demands:

  • stuff that should be deleted without reading
  • items that should be deleted after reading them once
  • tasks that need to be scheduled into one’s calendar
  • actions that should be taken immediately
  • to do’s that need to be added to lists

Those familiar with the components of 2Time will recognize these actions as Tossing (twice), Scheduling, Acting Now and Listing, respectively.

The problem is that when time demands are allowed to accumulate like this they create a burden. In the mind of the user, a darkness grows with every incoming email. The fear of missing something important grows. The disgust with themselves deepens. Their reputation as someone who is productive slips. The mental estimate they have of the time it will take to clean things out grows in their mind and creeps into their personal time, time that they would rather be spending with their families, or resting, or exercising, or on vacation.

Someone with an empty in-box is free. Someone else with a “full” in-box is burdened and running scared.

The solution to spend next weekend “dealing with my email” is only a stop-gap, because the habits that created the problem in the first place have not changed.

The real answer is to perfect the 11 Components of the 2Time system. They are the inescapable, essential practices that ALL professionals must master in some form or another.

When they are not mastered to some degree, one of the results is an overflowing in-box.

That’s why one of the tests that I might introduce to get to the Green Belt in 2Time is that the in-box must average less than 10 items at all times (or maybe one half screen). If there were a way to measure the number of items in an in-box on average, that would be a powerful and very useful metric.

In the future, I can imagine this functionality in Outlook, and a user watching this number carefully to see whether or not they were managing their in-box well.

In addition, I could see an interview in which one question could be “How many items do you have in your in-box on average?” This would be a surefire sign or productivity, or the lack thereof.

Fortunately, there are a few blogs that are discussing the idea of maintaining the “Zero Inbox”, including