Beware of Reactionary Workflow

In an era of mobile devices, instant connectivity, and automated mailing lists and notifications, it is all too easy for people to contact us. As a consequence, we live our lives just trying to keep our heads above water. Our ability to prioritize and control our focus is crippled by an unyielding flow of incoming communication: email, texts, tweets, facebook messages, phone calls, and so on (and on).

Without realizing it, most of us have entered the new era of what I call “reactionary workflow.” Rather than being proactive with our energy, we are acting in response to what is incoming. Having relinquished control over our focus, it has become harder and harder to embark on our work with intention.

Amidst the research for my upcoming book on extremely productive creative people and teams, I have found that the “uber productive” actively develop methods for defying this new and dangerous trend. They impose discipline on themselves and set up blockades when necessary. And, most importantly, they have a “separation of church and state” philosophy for communications and actionable stuff.

Proactively blocking out time for creating – rather than just responding – is a key tactic of productive creatives.

I’ve interviewed a number of people who literally quit (or minimize) their email program at certain times during the day. For example, Piers Fawkes, founder and editor of PSFK, reserves a good chunk of his morning – from 7-10am every day – to do research and digest the day’s trends and news prior to going through his email. Proactively blocking out time for creating – rather than just responding – is a key tactic of productive creatives.

You should also consider keeping the “actionable” stuff in your life separate from your email and calendars. Whether through post-it notes, action management programs (like, or even using a separate color pen or notebook for items requiring activity, try to manage your action steps in a sacred space. Doing so will empower you to prioritize and focus on the stuff you want (and need) to do, rather than living a life reacting to whatever flows in.

More insights on: Disconnecting, Task Management

Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky is Adobe's Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and discover creative work. Scott has been called one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company, and is the author of the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.
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