Reactionary Work Sucks - A simple change to fix it.

By Jack Meredith

I recently read Manage Your Day-To-Day by the people over at 99u. It was the perfect book for a blog-centric reader like myself. The book is broken up into a collection of pieces that touches on everything from meditation to letting go of perfectionism. There is some enlightening stuff in there and I recommend getting the book if you need some routine building tactics for the new year.

A concept that is described in the foreword as the biggest problem we face today is called the “reactionary workflow”. To have a reactionary workflow is to lose control of the priorities you’ve set and allow distractions to suck up all of your energy during the day. Instead of devoting your creative ambitions to projects that are deemed important, you allow reactionary work to take precedence all the while fooling yourself into thinking that what you are doing is productive. I’ll admit to having this problem and I’m positive the majority of startup employees deal with this as well.

Having to juggle multiple responsibilities all at once is hard. What makes it harder are the constant distractions, interruptions, pings, and notifications that occur throughout a workday. A top exec has an assistant or two to manage this stream of noise but for the rest of us we are required to fend for ourselves. It begs the question, how do we do creative work instead of reactive work?

Do creative work first.

It is so simple I wanted to hit my head a couple times in self realization. By focusing on the work that matters most first, we allow ourselves to allocate time towards doing what drives our own ambition rather than locking ourselves into other’s demands.

For me, blocking out the first couple hours of the day to my weekly projects works best. It is the time where I’m running on all cylinders and my mind is the most awake. With this strategy, I don’t bother opening any tabs or checking notifications so that I can solely focus on the task at hand. If I don’t reach 100% completion at the end of the block, I still leave with the piece of mind knowing that I truly optimized my time.

In contrast, managing my inbox first sets me up for failure. I’ve now succumbed to other people’s priorities leaving my most important work until later. The problem creates itself every time as when I finally get to what I want to do, it is already 3pm and I’m running on empty. This leads to procrastination with the high possibility of putting it off until the next day. A vicious cycle indeed.

The next time you buckle down in the morning to get shit done, ask yourself if what you are doing is truly creative work or reactionary work. If it is the latter than make the change and immediately feel more fulfilled.

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