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Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work?


4/6/2012: Came across an interesting article in Harvard Business Review titled "The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time". It is just full of information that really resonated with me. To quote the conclusion - "When you're engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you're renewing, truly renew. Make waves. Stop living your life in the gray zone." There are also a few references there to other great articles:



Not too long ago I read a book titled "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams" by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. It was a good book and I enjoyed reading it, but I did not find any groundbreaking or truly novel concepts in it. So, I would call the book very commonsensical, but I still find reading about things I already kind of know about very useful. It focuses me on a particular subject, it reiterates often important messages that I would otherwise allow to "slip my mind", it reassures me of my opinions on the subject. So, here are a few excerpts from the book that zoom in onto a particular subject - an environment and a culture of interruption that we are so often subjected to at work: 

“
A disturbing possibility is that overtime is not so much a means to increase the quantity of work time as to improve its average quality. You hear evidence that this is true in such frequently repeated statements as these: “I get my best work done in the early morning, before anybody else arrives.” “In one late evening, I can do two or three days’ worth of work.” “The office is a zoo all day, but by about 6 p.m., things have quieted down and you can really accomplish something.”
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Staying late or arriving early or staying home to work in peace is a damning indictment of the office environment.
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If you participate in or manage a team of people who need to use their brains during the work day, then the workplace environment is your business. It isn’t enough to observe, “You never get anything done around here between 9 and 5,” and then turn your attention to something else. It’s dumb that people can’t get work done during normal work hours. It’s time to do something about it.
“
Whenever the number of uninterrupted hours is a reasonably high proportion of total hours, up to approximately forty percent, then the environment is allowing people to get into flow when they need to. Much lower numbers imply frustration and reduced effectiveness. We call this metric the Environmental Factor or E-Factor: E-Factor = Uninterrupted Hours / Body-Present Hours.
“
In most of the office space we encounter today, there is enough noise and interruption to make any serious thinking virtually impossible. More is the shame: Your people bring their brains with them every morning. They could put them to work for you at no additional cost if only there were a small measure of peace and quiet in the workplace.
“
People must learn that it’s okay sometimes not to answer their phones, and they must learn that their time–not just the quantity but its quality–is important.

So, I am sure you get the message, but let's reinforce it. Recently, I have run into an excellent, short, YouTube video that does just that - "Jason Fried: Why work doesn't happen at work". Needless to say, I highly recommend watching it:

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