Three Things About Knowledge Work They Never Told You in School

Actually, schools tend to teach almost nothing on how to do knowledge work — that is, on the actual process for high performance workflow management (as opposed to the specific skill sets for various jobs, such as creating financial statements, etc., etc., which is taught in abundance).

Here are three things that you especially never hear, but are true:

  1. You will have to spend more time than expected doing seemingly strange and mundane tasks like organizing your computer files (or trying to figure out how you want them organized!) and figuring out where to capture and store all the various ideas you have.
  2. If people make fun of you for this (like my pastor has!; good-naturedly), ignore them. These are essential components for knowledge work, and your actual ideas, plans, and work products are better if you can keep yourself organized.
  3. This is because, somehow, in the process of organizing your ideas and knowledge work inputs and outputs, real work gets done beyond just the organizing (though that is important in itself).
  • Flyaway

    My brain has trouble learning all the variables on computers so the organizing is slow going.

  • Carey

    Agreed. I never was told these in my education (not even in college or university), and had to learn them the hard way. But – once you do learn a way that works for you as an individual, it’s a much better way to go – for productivity, peace of mind, and feeling of progress. Good points Matt.

  • Dan Winters

    OK – I’m an elementary schoool principal. I’m with you. What’s the scope and sequence or leadership and self management. Do you have any posts or resources that begin to expound on this? I’d be interested in exploring.

  • Matt

    Dan: That is an excellent question. I do not have any resources beginning to reflect on scope and sequence. However, you’ve got me thinking about this now and I may put some thought into this at some point. Excellent thinking.

  • Calix

    Stumbling across this is kinda providential… as an indie filmmaker, my recent course correction work (on that famous “randomly chosen point in the planet’s orbit around the star” known as New Year’s Day ) involves a substantial amount of reorganization and reexamination of my data.

    Primarily, I need to sell more of what I make; and to do that, I need to actively engage more of the people I know and who know me; and to do that, I need to look at my data – including a relationship database in Excel that’s almost 7,000 names deep and a messy email archive that extends back 15 years.

    As is to be expected, I’m feeling some guilt in the process – why am I organizing data instead of writing scripts, shooting movies or, you know, just selling things?

    This post (which I found via the link in today’s email on a related topic) will have to serve as divine confirmation that this work is as important as the creative work – moreso, in fact, cuz I rock at the “making things” part and need more woodshedding on the “selling things” part.

    So, thanks!

    – C