In theory, my workload should proceed as a steady flow of predictable effort year round. In reality, it doesn’t happen that way.
It takes five weeks from start to finish to produce one issue of one magazine. Since Connections Magazine is published ten times a year and AnswerStat is published six times, this means that I am typically working on two issues at any given time. This results in a steady, expected ebb and flow of activity. Add to that, ArticleWeekly, which is updated weekly, scheduled monthly duties, and at least one blog entry every business day (for one of seven blogs). It would seem that my work should smoothly move from one day to the next, evenly paced throughout the year.
The reality is that my effective workload is quite cyclical. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, things are slow. Between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s extremely slow. It’s also slow during the summer. After Memorial Day, things drop off noticeably, and after the Fourth of July, it’s as if someone turned off a switch; it stays that way until Labor Day.
The times between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day, as well as Labor Day to Thanksgiving Day are my “busy times.”
Ironically, I have the same amount of work to do throughout the year, but it takes twice as long to accomplish it during my “busy times.” The reason is that during my “busy times,” I receive many more ancillary phone calls and email messages (mostly email). These communications don’t directly relate to my primary work of publishing magazines or websites, but are tangential to it.
The flood of these secondary interactions is so much so that during my “slow times” I can generally do all required work in 3 to 6 hours a day, whereas during my “busy times” it takes 6 to 10 hours to accomplish the same amount of essential work. In fact, during my “busy times,” some Mondays are so bad, that all I do is respond to messages; some Friday afternoons are like that as well.
My conclusion in all this is that secondary email messages result in a huge productivity drain — in my case about 50%. If we can just curb non-essential email, we could reclaim a great deal of lost productivity.