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A glance at my workday: the applications I use and the tasks I use them for and how they interact

We have gathered here to discuss our understanding of processes, team organization and software requirements, right? Unfortunately, in doing so, I won’t be able to get around to mentioning a few product names when it comes to describing how I organize myself and interact with the intranet.

However, if we were to talk again in a couple of months, it would be highly unlikely for the suite of products that I use to have changed. Despite this, it still helps to be specific, although I will concentrate on the processes that the products perform overall.

First of all, the role I perform in the company is a communicative and administrative one. Some new workers would probably see me as one of those managers they consider redundant. Those with a more favorable attitude might refer to me as a “servant leader.” Whatever their view, I am the type of business manager who thinks a great deal about business models, new customer acquisition, marketing, sales, and every form of cooperation, collaboration and co-working feasible within the company. The mix of requirements, communication and administration that I come across in the day-to-day running of the company is in no way rare. 

My day starts with my alarm clock. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve managed to transform my bedroom into a phone-free zone. After I get up, I go straight to my study and take my smartphone off of the charging station. Checking my phone in the morning for new information and messages is pretty important because we have employees, partners and customers in the US and all around the world. While I’m sleeping, some of these people are still at their desks. I draw a large part of my comfort for the day from the certainty that: nothing has blown up. Nothing has burnt down. And, in general, there is no ensuing danger.

To be frank, I can’t remember a single time when a crisis occurred overnight that would have made me jump out of bed in the morning and drop everything to try and help solve it. In twenty years, I have probably experienced a handful of situations that made me feel uneasy. Looking back, however, they were not full-blown crisis. And the help I provided in solving them was usually marginal. We have teams that take care of this type of thing around the clock. We have a dedicated person responsible and a dedicated procedure in place for all emergencies.

Nevertheless, I still take a look to see what’s going on every morning. I’ve been doing the same thing since I started my own company at age seventeen. Back then, I didn’t look at my smartphone, but sat in front of my computer and checked my emails. There wasn’t much of a difference really – just that what I was doing was more openly visible from the outside since I was sitting directly in front of my computer. 

I don’t have any emergencies to deal with usually. No more than ten minutes later, I’ve finished looking through everything and postponed any action until later on in the day. For a couple of years now, email programs have made it easy for you to postpone dealing with emails until later. At first, it felt to me like some sort of deferment measure, but now I consider it very helpful to prioritize and plan tasks. 

How I Use Emails and How I Avoid Them

In a perfect world, I would love to have my emails completed and off my desk. To aid me here, I work in strict accordance with David Allen’s method of “Getting Things Done (GTD)” (see Recommended Reading). Can I get this email done in two minutes? If I can, I deal with it right away. Otherwise, I move the email into one of my work systems. As this suggests, I have two different solutions available to me here: a private system and our central Jira system, where all our employees’ work lands.

I usually deal with emails four or five times a day and always try to deal with them all at once. However, postponing non-urgent emails is also part of these fast run-throughs. After all, I just want to make sure that there are no crises to be dealt with. I am a firm believer in the view that, with more discipline, you can get by just checking your emails once or twice a day. But at the moment, my curiosity is still too much like that of the proverbial cat to manage to do that.

The important thing here is that email is not a work medium and emails do not have any great value. They just provide me with information. I get the vast majority of my emails from our Linchpin intranet (Confluence-based) or Agile Hive (Jira-based) systems anyway – i.e. from systems, and not from people. I hardly ever write any emails myself. If I do write them, they are almost always replies to people who I have never used a joint collaboration system with. I can’t just shoot everyone in the direction of our extranet and tell them we are coordinating everything there. Neither can I simply write to everyone x amount of times on Telegram, which I must admit I find really great as a messaging system. So, coordination and agreement processes are needed. The other person must want this as well, of course.

Internal Messaging: How I Use Digital to Stay on the Ball and Show Presence 

Part of my routine involves reading internal company messages as soon as I’m at my desktop in my office. This includes our microblog (a kind of internal Facebook), which contains short, zippy, and often funny content, and our news section on the intranet, where anyone in the company can post. This is practically the official postal system in our organization. Anyone who writes a blog post on the intranet has something to report that impacts or interests at least the very large majority of our coworkers. The post is highly relevant and is read by almost everyone.

We will talk later in a little more detail about the function this content or news “for every man” [sic] has. In large companies in particular, personalized broadcasting allows everyone to reach the specific people they want to reach. If the restroom on the third floor is broken, this is clearly relevant to everyone who works on that floor – but not for anyone else.

When I get to the office, I read the internal messages and brief updates. Frequently, I spend twenty or thirty minutes doing so because I comment on them and leave “likes” as well. It is important to me as a manager to show a presence on our internal systems. I believe that the larger the surface available for friction in digital systems, the more personally beneficial it is for me to better use my physical presence in the office. If it wasn’t so easy to reach me digitally, I would probably be asked a lot more questions on an analog and personal basis.

I am a great advocate of arranging things personally face-to-face. Encounters like these are more intense, more reliable, more extensive, and simply offer a much better chance to discuss work, plans or even the mess we are in. Unfortunately, the amount of time available for synchronous communication is often very limited. That is why I usually attempt to communicate using digital methods first. And I then use the valuable time left over to coordinate things personally in situations where it didn’t work digitally.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing too: you end up writing at cross purposes. The situation is tricky and it almost appears impossible to find a solution. Emotions run high. But as soon as you are face-to-face, you find a solution in a matter of minutes and without much difficulty. You ask yourself, why bother using digital tools to communicate at all? Everything works much better when you meet to agree to things face-to-face! 

The problem is, of course, that in a modern company that offers you a certain amount of freedom, you sometimes do something private like go out with your kids during the day and then catch up on the work hours you missed in the evening or on the weekend. And unlike the option that meeting face-to-face gives you, the digital option of asynchronous communication is always available any time of day or night, irrespective of where you are. The messages simply wait for their recipients. And, as those who work with people on other continents and in different time zones know full well, personal communication is not always possible.

So, I write and comment a lot myself. That way my colleagues know that I am reading along and am “in the room.” This works very well. It almost never happens that employees come to me wanting to present something just to be patted on the back. And I know other managers hardly ever experience this either. This is because at our company, everyone is free to proudly present their work results digitally and then get feedback. The presence of digital distance always means that a certain type of critical feedback is received, but that makes the positive feedback all the more authentic and valuable.

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