How I work: No matter what anyone tells you, there’s still a bunch of paper in this digital world

Adapted from a past post, Staying ahead and Work/Life Balance, revised for 2010…

How Bill WorksLauren Cooney noted on Twitter today

"What is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning? Check work email, regardless of day. Bad habit or good? Or just Microsoft-ie?"

I mentioned that checking mail in the morning first thing has just become de rigueur & was a personal morning ritual pre Microsoft. My wife might note that it was more round the clock in the early days (pre-kids) when I worked closely with our offices in Asia and Europe.

This reminded me of a a past article (and associated post) of interest from Fortune, on "How I Work" in which "a dozen super-achievers tell how they stay ahead in the fast lane."

…the following 12 interviews are by no means a litany of complaints. These people, ranging from jazz maestro Wynton Marsalis to jurist Richard Posner to Goldman’s CEO, Hank Paulson, love what they do.

The challenge is to continue to do it well, when the responsibilities and complexities keep increasing. One common answer is to get up early — real early. Note to MBA students: If you can’t rise at dawn, you might just reconsider your goal of making it as a CEO.

At the office, we spend cycles on thinking about how to enable work/life balance, important when you consider we generally spend more waking hours at work and with other employees at the office than with our own families. There’s a good aggregation article on the work essentials for work/life balance.

I, of course, offer my own take on this in my post Your questions: How I Work at Microsoft. Note the date, please. 😉

The main difference a year later is that more of my office is opened up since the move to a truly paperless existence. That really is due to the fact that I moved offices, and embraced an effort to shred or file (scan) any paper on my desk at the beginning of a new month; also trying the same approach at home with good results (but it’s early). It also helps that everything is (for the most part) still in boxes at the office as a move to a new location is pending (same role, new view).

For me, I find that Office offers great processing tools (I no longer use but have great reverence for Snarf from MS Research) to manage the flow of emails I get on a daily basis (after rules process out all the mail lists): on a good/bad day (you pick), I still see 200+ mails in my In box.

Of note: one colleague I respect is so serious about work/life balance that he all but forbids his team from sending emails late into the night or weekends (sure, there are exceptions to the rule). But he is able to live within the boundaries by responding to mail offline after the family goes to bed and then sync’ing mail the next morning at the office.

Tags: microsoft, time management, snarf, work life balance.

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