The always-on economy: 7 ways I’m taking back control

Stuart McLeodCEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

The ever-lowering cost of software development and distribution over the last 15 years has given rise to an explosion of SaaS applications of every type and in every crevice of the economy.

When you combine this with the proliferation of smart devices, every employee is now more connected than ever to their work environment and colleagues. At every hour of the day.

The rise of borderless and distributed teams is perpetuating the always-on requirement, and the Fear Of Missing Out is ever-present. We are now seeing the design strategies that led to the rise of behemoth consumer applications — like praying on basic human needs of acceptance and inclusion — leaking into enterprise applications.

The average enterprise (larger than 500 employees) now has 928 cloud services across the business, and efforts to minimize and consolidate have been fruitless. The rise of companies responsible for integrating these applications, such as Zapier, Workato and Tray, are indicators of the proliferation.

Worldwide, we’re seeing people move from major cities that are over-priced and over-trafficked, to technology-enabled regional areas. However, the flexibility and lifestyle gains afforded by quality communication facilities such as Zoom and Slack are being offset by timezone complexities and the cultural movement away from 9–5 towards 24/7.

All the while, email as our foundational asynchronous and written communication method, is now supplemented with synchronous real-time communication methods that result in tremendous distraction and constant demands for our time.

The rise of so many communication channels means we’re now faced with notifications coming at us constantly, from all directions.

Deep thinking and meaningful thought at work is heading towards extinction. Work is no longer getting done at work, and is intruding evermore in the home.

You can see it in coffee shops worldwide. Workers with (predominantly) Macs have one eye on Slack, one eye on email, and no eyes left for the work they came to the coffee shop to get done in the first place. Research shows that it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from each and every interruption.

Mind you, I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve felt my own productivity decline as we’ve implemented more asynchronous communication methods to our team at Karbon, and I’ve attempted to be across as many as I can.

Streams from Salesforce Chatter, Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack and Intercom all impact on your day. As we move beyond the accounting vertical into helping make an impact for many of those doing meaningful work, our productivity and focus must be strong.

In its entirety, there is a constant stream of consciousness that we’re dealing with throughout our lives. That luxurious feeling of Peace Of Mind that everything is under control when you leave work on a Friday afternoon (and you can actually enjoy a proper weekend) has become a far-flung dream. The decline in mental health all over the world is a hangover from the always-on economy.

Essentially, enough is enough. I’m going to do more with less and feel better about it!

So, this is what I’m doing over the next few months to begin this journey.

  • Reduce nearly entirely, or eliminate, all notifications on my phone and your computer. I don’t need to know that someone updated files in Dropbox. The distraction in the top right or on your phone essentially eliminates your ability to do any deep work or focussed thinking.

  • Implement a  Pomodoro timer 15 times a day, for 25 minutes of each time.

  • Implement the Edrolo OS and record hours of the work week, and report back to the team for my own accountability.

  • Starting this coming northern summer, we’ll trial a a 4-day work week to keep us highly focussed on the goal of doing more with less.

  • Eliminate asynchronous communication from my phone, including Slack. If you need me, you know to ring. Phones still work as phones!

  • Turn my phone grayscale.

  • And (obviously) cancel my not very utilized Facebook account.

I’ll be sharing each step of the way on my journey to separate myself from this always-on world that we’re in, and my quest to get more meaningful work done.

These same philosophies will heavily influence the Karbon product this year and you’re going to see some wonderful ways to bring calm and productivity to your own workplace.

We’re terribly excited about the future!

Stuart McLeod
CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how knowledge workers collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.

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