What do you consider is your work?

In the most recent Productive Living, David Allen asks why so many knowlege workers don’t consider processing their inbox to be part of their work. It’s as if they consider processing their inbox to zero to be a luxury reserved for those who don’t get much input or don’t have anything better to do.


Processing your work is part of your work

I’m struggling with my impatience. I’m not as neutral as I’d like to be yet about how many professionals regard their inbox processing time as “extra” work that they can’t find time to do.

The stress many people feel can be directly attributed to the avoidance of daily and weekly catching up—with the flood of emails, voice mails, meetings, projects, and other informational and actionable items.

Most people behave as if this stuff is relatively unimportant. I argue that it’s where much of their primary value lies. Knowledge workers are paid to bring their intelligence to bear on input, and improve things by doing that. The decision about what to do with an email and its contents, what it means in terms of the work and standards at hand, is knowledge work.

Keep reading David’s article.

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  1. Interesting, I never thought of it that way. That helps me a lot feel ok about taking the monotonous time out to sort my emails. It is work, not just busy work.

  2. David makes a really excellent point that processing your e-mail is work.

    But I can definitely empathize with people that resist in-box zero techniques because they feel like they will never get to “real” work.

    One of the best ways to manage this tension is to set aside a block of time to complete e-mail and then give yourself permission to move forward on other work for the rest of the day.

    This keeps you on top of inputs but also allows you to escape your inbox and move forward on next actions.

    To your brilliance!

  3. Email and meetings are where I get my work “orders”. I support various project teams who have tasks that need to be done. I collect those tasks, assess whether the task is a 2-minute action or a sub-project, list/organize it, and move to the next “order”. Most of my deliverables are sent via email. Email is my most useful tool.

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