I'm intrigued by the conversation of how work will be done tomorrow – will email eventually go away? What will we be using to message each other? How will this change our conversations? Will there be a need for conference rooms at all? (If you have a quick 6 ½ minutes, watch the newest Microsoft 'Future' video and let your mind soar.)
Pretty cool, huh? Imagine how productive we could be if we could magically open a collaborative file on an elevator wall or the surface of a lunch table, wherever we are when an idea comes to mind. At that point, we're past the time of taking notes and accessing them later to get a project done. Instead we can do a project right then and there, whenever 'then' is and wherever 'there' may be. The huge potential gains in productivity aren't always met with excitement, however; not everyone is a proponent of the work anywhere, anytime, on any device model. If you ask me, technology is making accessibility easier while exerting a new level of pressure on our capacity to balance.
A particularly active 'On' switch
Productivity is like a drug to me. My mind is heavily ingrained with a drive to do more stuff in less time and take advantage of every minute of every day. I realized this earlier this year, when I spent over a week at the beginning of March without a phone. For how attached I am to that little screen that connects me to my friends, family, and colleagues, I'm lucky to have survived the deprivation. I could have bought a new phone in Vancouver, but I resisted. I got by on my tablet and laptop, while still managing my work, travel, and, well, life. I am happy I resisted, because the experience gave me some great insight about the work/life balance.
Learning from forced detachment
From writing down directions on a napkin in order to find a currency exchange to whipping out a laptop to make my phone calls (thank you DialPad), I creatively and resourcefully survived. I hadn't gone as far as the 13 workers that quit email for a week, but I still found that new sense of empowerment. At least during my time in Canada – part work, part weekend getaway – it was calming. I got a glimpse into the mindset of those who think more negatively towards the work anywhere, anytime, on any device standard. Part of me felt like I was able to notice things that I normally would miss by staring at my screen too much. As far as this specific trip went, I was actually grateful for the experience.
By the time I got back to Chicago, I realized something about the work anywhere, anytime, on any device methodology: it depends on your capacity to balance (and how well you know the tools you have at your disposal).
Flip it just right
Where productivity meets its ultimate high is when you are willing to think creatively about your work/life balance. Modern mobile tools have demolished the standard 9-5 work schedule; one could easily work around the clock now. But not everyone wants that, as opponents of the new mobile paradigm have made clear. So how do we get the best of both? It takes work to train your brain to do this, but it all comes back to an effective on/off switch.
We've all heard that the average person spends months and years of their life waiting in grocery lines, for the elevator, for the bus or train to get to its destination, filling up the gas tank, etc. That's when I really went crazy in Vancouver – waiting with no phone to distract me and feeling like I was wasting time. Downtime is the work-when-mobile goldmine. When I would get to work it would take me at least an extra half hour in the morning to get through my email inbox because I was unable to do so en commute. Not fun – but it did give me more chances to take in the scenery.
The point here is not to think of work as a burdensome obligation following you everywhere you go just because you have work email connected to your personal phone. Embrace the fact that you have it available to you at any given moment and train yourself to work when you find yourself waiting. That being said, when life presents you with a beautiful moment...
...let yourself detach, even if only briefly, confident that you're in good enough shape to do so.
This way, when you do sit down to do the work that really matters, you're focused. You know your inbox is in good shape because you've capitalized on downtime, and you know your head is in good shape because you've soaked up a juicy break when you needed it. Now you can simply concentrate on creativity and the bigger tasks that will drive innovation, revenue, and success.
Make change mangement a priority at your organization! Without it, you're expecting to get the most out of users, while they are simply spending time figuring out how to work better. Give them the right training, so they can focus their time on the work itself.Originally published on June 28, 2016