Ditch the bullet journal and stay in bed as long as you want


Last week it was Goldman Sachs. The week before it was JPMorgan Chase. It won’t come as a shock if next week another Wall Street bank tells workers they should be prepared to return to office on a regular basis by June or July.

Where the pandemic shows signs of slowing down, it quickly becomes possible to imagine resuming some semblance of normal working life. Where is it?

I didn’t realize how much Covid had changed my view of normalcy until an unsolicited email went past my spam filter the other day to announce the best management tip. time.

“Get in the habit of waking up before dawn,” tweeted someone who called himself a “growth mindset hacker” from Silicon Valley.

Before 2020, I would have calmly hit the delete button and continued with the day. This has been my general approach to almost every productivity boosting idea that has come across the pike.

The people I admire swear by bullet journals, time-boxing, time segmentation and other things that promise to turn useless, Solitaire-addicted lazy people into high-load models of efficiency. I have never been able to convince myself that everything is worth it, although I make an exception for the principles behind the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer to induce intense spurts of work throughout the day. .

Either way, the sight of this email from Silicon Valley sparked an unexpected wave of exasperation. Who has time to think about time management at a time like this, I found myself mentally stuttering.

My workday usually spends in a zoom blur of meetings and interviews, and it’s a lot easier than others. I’m not trying to fit it into toddler or school age care like some exhausted friends do.

“I don’t know how I’m going to find the time to recover from this year,” a man with a big job said the other day. Given that we’re both happy to be still employed, it’s no surprise that productivity levels appear to have increased in many companies, including those where Covid has sent people home to work.

Over 80% of executives whose workforce is suddenly remote said their business was at least as productive as before, a study in Europe found last year. Over 40 percent said they were somewhat or much more productive.

But that was in 2020. As the pandemic has spread this year, some are starting to worry. “We started to see a drop in employee engagement. You just can’t maintain those types of productivity levels, ”Sunil Prashara, managing director of the Project Management Institute, a professional group, said at a conference last month.

In other words, many workers need more than a bullet journal to help them cope with burnout. That’s why it’s frustrating to be told now that it’s time to get up before dawn to pile in even more in our busy days. Indeed, the Covid crisis has exposed a fundamental flaw in the general idea that we can pomodoro our path to productivity by changing our routine. Millions of people have now seen for themselves that it takes a broader systemic change – as everyone has to work from home at the same time – to make many efficiency improvements possible.

Changing my daily commute from a grueling two-hour morning run to a seconds walk to the kitchen table means I’m starting to work earlier and quieter than ever.

Once there, I don’t need to download any apps to help deal with the distractions of a busy open office, as those hijackings no longer exist. As American scholar Cal Newport showed in his recent book, A world without email, the monumental waste of time caused by business emails is a systemic scourge this can’t be solved just by playing with spam filters or writing better topic titles.

Like so many other things in modern working life, the problem requires a much more serious structural overhaul than anything a single person can achieve, no matter what time they get out of bed each morning.

pilita.clark@ft.com
Twitter: @pilitaclark





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