Do these points apply to you?

  • you get 150-200 emails a day plus 30 phone calls and you are not a call centre agent but a manager or an executive
  • you routinely find yourself engaged in remediation, fixing, making sure things happen – also known as firefighting
  • you are in the narrow part of the funnel of every decision. In fact, you are the funnel – no decision seem to be possible without you
  • people come to you with problems and leave them on your desk
  • you are referred to as someone who would “make it happen” 
  • you find yourself taking on things that your admin assistant could easily do and probably should
  • you compulsively check your Blackberry, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and whatnot many times a day

What’s happening? There seem to be a couple of trends at play here.

Firstly, in the age of omni-connectedness, being available at all times seems to be de riguer even for senior executives. I get emails from people asking me if they could call me. In fact, I feel somewhat shortchanged by not receiving a text message asking for a permission to send such an email to me. The amount of traffic, the unnecessary information, the interruptions is often so great that many feel compelled to “stay after hours to actually get the work done.”

Secondly, it is exceedingly common to see people charge with strategic work descend into the mire of tactical stuff, which sometimes borders on such sheer triteness that it is beyond any criticism. Wordsmithing, filling out forms, writing vapid “status reports,” checking that staff members submitted their timesheets, meetings ad nauseum with no substance to them … you name it!

Tactical stuff is comfortable. We know how to go about it, especially if this is something we did in our previous job.

Tactical stuff is rewarding: results can be observed rather quickly: a report sent out, a problem rectified, a simple decision made.

Tactical stuff feels like “real work” of which you are not afraid.

I think it’s time to practice a closed door policy. Stop being interrupted all the time. Explain to your people and others likely to seek our time that you won’t be available for a few hours a day. Demand that people bring you solutions and not problems. Stop meddling.

Close the office door and spend a couple of hours thinking or writing. Strategize. Communicate. Raise the brand awareness and the profile of your company or department. Design.

These will be the most productive hours of your day.

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