A recent post by Rees Morrison on the subject of productivity caught my eye. In it he described the “five-or-10-minute rule,” which recommends that you wait five or 10 minutes between the time you write an e-mail message and the time you send it. The theory is that this brief waiting time will give you an opportunity to think about the consequences of your message before you click send.
I suspect advice like this has saved many of us from acute embarrassment over the years. To my surprise, however, Rees Morrison characterized this advice in the following way:
Good advice, very lawyerly, impossible to criticize, but it will obviously hobble productivity. To advise in-house counsel to ponder the legal consequences of what they do with email – indeed, with everything they do – is to be on the side of the angels, but let productivity go to the devil.
His conclusion made me wonder about his definition of productivity. If your definition of productivity is to get as much done as possible, a delay of even five minutes on each e-mail message could cost you valuable time for action. However, what if that rushed e-mail proves to be wrong. Then taking a few minutes to avert disaster suddenly seems like the most efficient course of action.
I’d suggest that the right definition of productivity is not “get as much done as possible” or even “get as much of the right things done as possible.” Rather, a better definition of true productivity is: Get as many of the right things done in the right way. Under this definition of productivity, the “five-or-10-minute rule” makes perfect sense.
[Photo Credit: f_mafra]