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This week I believe I may have sunk to a new low in work/life balance – I was blow-drying my hair while on a conference call.
Fear not, the phone was on mute and also on speaker – and I was following every word.
I finished packing while on the next call, paid the gardener, and got in an Uber… all without breaking my pace once.
By the third call, I slipped up a bit. While I had noted I might need to drop off to go through airport security, I didn’t quite do that. I did manage to put my phone in the x-ray machine – right as I was called on to respond to a question. There’s nothing quite like picking you phone back up to discover someone is waiting for your reply.
I’d say this is unusual, but I’m noticing that as technology advances, I’m multitasking more than ever. And although my days seem to get busier every year, I’m somehow squeezing it all in, partially because I’m fragmenting my work.
Take one of my recent travel days for instance. I pulled out my laptop so many times that I almost lost count. In the hotel. At the client site. In the gate area of the airport. On the flight before departure. On the flight after departure while waiting for a gate. At the Admirals Club. In the airport restaurant. In the boarding area of my connecting flight. On the next flight again. Finally, when I arrived home that evening. That’s ten stop/starts to my work.
You would think I’d lose productive time. Instead I find that days like this are the ones where I actually cross more off my to-do list. Its the days sitting at a desk that I will struggle to maintain my focus.
The idea of fragmented work is nothing new. A quick Google search will turn up dozens of articles around organizational behavior and workplace productivity. Most experts would agree that fragmented work is not the ideal. It can, however, allow for more to be accomplished if carefully coordinated.
I’ve started embracing the idea that all of my work will be fragmented work. I’m now creating my running to-do list around that notion. Rather than writing out one full task to be completed (say a report or a presentation), I break it into smaller specific steps and then cross those off as I go. I get more of a sense of accomplishment. Also,its easier to pick up small tasks when I’ve got a few minutes between calls (or flights). It has also helped me regain some focus on not so little things (like lunch and gym time) I was struggling to squeeze in.
Fragmented work seems to be my norm… but controlling it has reduced my late nights considerably. Now if I could just get those conference calls tamed….