Sunday, September 8, 2013

Crooked Frames

Ilya Pozin penned an interesting column on LinkedIn about a week and half ago, and in doing so, painted a big, red bullseye smack in the middle of his forehead. His prescription that people devote part of their Sundays to prepping for the work week ahead was met with withering scorn.

I wonder if Mr. Pozin was surprised at the reaction to his article. I certainly see where he's coming from, as an entrepreneur. The business world never sleeps, and if you want to keep up with it effectively, you never really get "a day off." If "thank God it's Friday," rings true for you, you're likely not doing something that you love enough to want to do the work that it's going to take to keep up. Being an entrepreneur or CEO is not a trivial undertaking. These are people who put in some VERY long hours, and likely, aren't in a position to completely ignore things on Sundays because they can't force all of the various parties that they do business with to do the same. While it's true that even the high-powered must take some time away from the office, and have a bright line between their work and home lives, it's unlikely that they simply box out the weekend as a block, and leave it at that. And, more than like, many of Mr. Pozin's critics understand that.

But I think that Mr. Pozin primed people for a negative reaction to this article with the title: "Why Productive People Work On Sundays," and the opening: "Sundays aren’t just for rest and recuperation. When used wisely, they’re actually the perfect way to start your week with a bang." (Emphasis mine.) Whether or not he meant it that way, I think that a lot of people took him to be saying that people who do not use Sundays to prepare for the week ahead are being unproductive through an unwise use of their time. People (especially Americans) are (very) sensitive to being excluded from virtues in this way, and tend to respond badly. And so the responses were predictable, especially those where people framed spending Sunday as a work-free day as a matter of necessity, rather than choice.

Bucking conventional wisdom isn't easy under the best of circumstances. And when that conventional wisdom is backed up by people's self-interest, that hardly counts as the best of circumstances. A good point, incorrectly framed, can easily become lost in the negative reaction to the framing. "What you say" is always important, but "how you say it" can never be taken for granted.

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