The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time – From the HBR Blog

I enjoy reading Harvard Business Review, the subjects they cover and the authors writing for them are usually pretty spot on.

There was a piece today from Tony Schwartz around lost productivity that really resonated with me. Highly suggest you read the whole article but if you’re looking for just the takeaways here they are:

If you’re a manager, here are three policies worth promoting:

1. Maintain meeting discipline. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes, rather than an hour or longer, so participants can stay focused, take time afterward to reflect on what’s been discussed, and recover before the next obligation. Start all meetings at a precise time, end at a precise time, and insist that all digital devices be turned off throughout the meeting.

2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day. It forces your people into reactive mode, fractures their attention, and makes it difficult for them to sustain attention on their priorities. Let them turn off their email at certain times. If it’s urgent, you can call them — but that won’t happen very often.

3. Encourage renewal. Create at least one time during the day when you encourage your people to stop working and take a break. Offer a midafternoon class in yoga, or meditation, organize a group walk or workout, or consider creating a renewal room where people can relax, or take a nap.

It’s also up to individuals to set their own boundaries. Consider these three behaviors for yourself:

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.

3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

You can read more from Tony, President & CEO of the Energy Project, on his blog.

If you’re looking for comfort, you won’t find it here.

Great review about work from A.M. Homes. Hoping she comes to town for her book tour.

This early collection of short stories published in 1990 is the third A.M. Homes’s books I’ve read. She’s a daring and provocative writer, who pushes the envelope until the reader cringes. And as I read these stories I was very aware that they were just the foreshadowing of her later “The End of Alice” and “Music for Torching.” .

She writes about a distorted surreal suburbia, where people are obsessed with sick fantasies. In one story she humanizes a Barbie doll, and the descriptions of the abuse of the doll and a young boy’s masturbatory experiences with it are chilling. In another story she describes a young boy in a coma. And in yet another, she introduces the vacant and disturbed suburban couple who she later develops in “Music for Torching.” The stories are short and seem not completely finished. Instead they look like little slices of life, or writing exercises as A.M. Homes developed her craft. She’s an uncomfortable writer to read. She rubs her readers’ faces in muck, forcing us to look directly in the sewer of human behavior. It’s a perverted and twisted journey into the American dream.

I should be ripping her work to shreds, warning people about staying away. I should have certainly stopped reading her work after I read her first book. And yet, there’s something about it that appeals to me as it jars me out of my complacency about the world around me. I therefore recommend her work for the adventurous, but if you’re looking for comfort, you won’t find it here.

Readin’ and Rightin’

I always fall back into reading when I’m sans computer. It’s a good thing, I should schedule it to blow up more often. In the past week I’ve read Fraud and Stupid White Men. In the library now to get Downsize This.

So thankful to have the library right around the corner, because I really can’t buy any more books until I move into a bigger place. I’ve got the bookcase in the kitchen, 3 in the living room, the wine rack in the dining room has turned into one, 2 shelves in the front room, all 6 shelves on the desk, the inside of the wood bench, the closet in my room, under each of the side tables by the bed and a stack on the floor, not including the random ones strewn about the house.

Am I addicted or what? I should go get a book about that.