By Gerry Murray. 22-12-2019
(Scroll down for a laugh)

"In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner." ~ Cal Newport

In his book, Deep Work, from which the above quote is taken, Newport is referring to the practice of being busy with emails, attending unnecessary meetings and commenting on instant message systems and collaborative platforms just to show that you’re doing something. 

As Alfred A. Montapert stated so eloquently: "Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress."

With no disrespect to someone caught in this type of culture, Parkinson’s Law seems to be at play. Eventually, people get caught out. 

As someone who has run a small business since 2003, I cannot afford to waste my time on being busy for the sake of it! I have to weigh up every minute of every day to gauge whether it is creating value for either myself or my clients. 

When busyness is used and rewarded in an organisation as a measure of productivity it creates a double-edged sword. It creates unnecessary stress and people lose the ability to manage expectations. When you don’t manage expectations, you inevitably disappoint! 

How do you manage expectations?

Here’s one way that works: 

For 3 years now I have a permanent out-of-office message on my emails, primarily to manage expectations. Recently I’ve noticed a lot of my peers - trainers, coaches, consultants - seem to have adopted a similar approach. Here are a few examples I received this month: 

I hope this message finds you well. The current training and coaching period (until the first week of december included) is very intense and energy consuming. Since I am only human and don't have a back office, I will respond at the best of my abilities to your request within 72/96 hours.
I would appreciate if you could filter the degree of urgency of your requests before resending me an email.
If your request can't wait then please call me.
Thank you for your understanding and collaboration to a more human world,
Best wishes,

Thank you for your message. Please note that I will have no or very limited access to my emails until Friday 13 December (incl.). Should you need swift contact with me, please do not hesitate to text or call me on my mobile. Best regards,

Here’s a version of my own:

Thanks for your mail.
In order to get quality, focused work done (especially for my clients), I only process emails a few times each day.
If you need to speak with me urgently please text or call me on my mobile and I'll get back to you asap.

Believe it or believe it not, each year I get on average 3 calls! I pay great attention to client emails and nobody seems to have died because I didn’t respond immediately to their email. Key learning: don’t let others put their priorities in your mailbox! 

This, of course, is just one approach. Nevertheless, it nails a critical source of distracted and poor quality work on the head. And, it sends a signal that you’re able to prioritise and focus on what’s important now

How will you manage expectations in 2020?

Now is a good time to make some New Years Resolutions about how you’re going to manage expectations in 2020. It’s actually easier than you think.

Discuss with your colleagues and your boss how you can minimise interruptions and how you can communicate to others outside your department or unit that you need some quality uninterrupted time to do deep focused work. Agree what is a reasonable timeframe within which to respond to a request from a colleague or a client. Test this out and adapt it as necessary. 

Once you’ve done this for a few weeks you’ll be amazed at the amount of quality time you have available and just how much more work you can get done! And, how you’ll actually regularly exceed expectations! 

Make 2020 Your Best Year Yet

In January, I’ll be sharing with a select group of lucky people some strategies for making 2020 their best year yet. If you’re in Belgium and you’d like to join you can get more info here. Places are limited so you’ll need to hurry. 

If you can’t join us then you can subscribe to my online course of the same name here. This is included in the live seminar for free. 

May you expect realistic things from yourself and others this week.

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas! 



A duck was standing by a busy roadside, waiting for a break in traffic as cars went roaring by.
A chicken walks up and says, "Don't do it, buddy. You'll never hear the end of it.”

How did the ATM feel at the end of a busy day?

There are only two things in life to worry about: if you are well or if you are sick. If you are well, there is nothing to worry about.
If you are sick, there are only two things to worry about: if you will get better or if you will die. If you get better, there is nothing to worry about. 
If you die, there are only two things to worry about: if you will go to Heaven or if you will go to Hell. If you go to Heaven there is nothing to worry about. If you go to Hell, you will be too busy catching up with old friends that you won’t have time to worry.

So why worry?

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