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Writing a journal entry in an undergraduate or graduate-school program is a less formal reading and writing assignment. The goals of the Journal Entry are for you to show that –
You have read and understood the assigned reading
You can produce your own thoughts, observations, comparisons, or criticisms of the assigned reading.
First, read and make sure you fully understand the assigned text.Second, write a response to the assigned reading. This is called a journal entry. *Do not write a lot of sentences that summarize the reading. Your professor knows the assigned reading very well. **Most of your sentences should explain your thoughts about the reading. Below are some guiding questions for writing a journal entry. Try to answer most (or all) of these questions. After you answer the questions, you are ready to write your Journal Entry. Delete the questions, and use your answers to write three or four paragraphs that discuss the reading.
What is the topic of this reading assignment?
What did you learn from this reading assignment?
Why did the author write this text? (Possible answers are to explain something, to persuade the reader about something, or to make the reader want to do something.)
Did anything surprise you in the reading? If yes, what surprised you?
What parts of this assigned reading did you like the best, or what was the most interesting part? Why?
Is the assigned reading similar to – or different from – other information that you have read?)
What would you change in this reading if you wrote it? What could the author have done to make this reading better, more understandable, or more interesting?

Are there parts of the text that you did not understand? What were they?
Was there something you read that you want to know more about? What was it?

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“SO MANY DIFFERENT people can get to you
through different channels, and the pressure
is enormous.”
“Constant e‑mail, international travel,
calls at all hours—I was exhausted. The
collaborative demands eventually wore
me down.”
“I always felt I had to do more, go further,
save the day. I would become people’s life raft
and then almost drown.”
These are the voices of collaborative
As organizations become more global,
adopt matrixed structures, offer increasingly
complex products and services, and enable
24/7 communication, they are requiring
employees to collaborate with more internal
colleagues and external contacts than
ever before. According to research from
Connected Commons, most managers now
spend 85% or more of their work time on
e‑mail, in meetings, and on the phone, and
the demand for such activities has jumped
by 50% over the past decade. Companies
benefit, of course: Faster innovation and
more-seamless client service are two
by-products of greater collaboration. But
along with all this comes significantly less
time for focused individual work, careful
reflection, and sound decision making.
A 2016 HBR article coauthored by one of
us dubbed this destructive phenomenon
collaborative overload and suggested ways
that organizations might combat it.
Over the past few years we’ve
conducted further research—both
quantitative and qualitative—to better
understand the problem and uncover
solutions that individuals can implement
on their own. Working with 20 global
organizations in diverse fields (software,
consumer products, professional services,
manufacturing, and life sciences), we
started by creating models of employees’
collaborations and considering the effect
of those interactions on engagement,
performance, and voluntary attrition. We
then used network analyses to identify
efficient collaborators—people who work
productively with a wide variety of others
but use the least amount of their own and
their colleagues’ time—and interviewed
200 of them (100 men and 100 women)
about their working lives. We learned a
great deal about how overload happens
and what leaders must do to avoid it so that
they can continue to thrive.
Not surprisingly, we found that
always-on work cultures, encroaching
technology, demanding bosses, difficult
clients, and inefficient coworkers were
a big part of the problem, and most of
those challenges do require organizational
solutions. But we discovered in many
cases that external time sinks were
matched by another enemy: individuals’
own mindsets and habits. Fortunately,
people can overcome those obstacles
themselves, right away, with some strategic
We uncovered best practices in three
broad categories: beliefs (understanding
why we take on too much); role, schedule,
and network (eliminating unnecessary
collaboration to make time for work that is
aligned with professional aspirations and
personal values); and behavior (ensuring
that necessary or desired collaborative
work is as productive as possible). Not all
our recommendations will suit everyone:
People’s needs differ by personality,
hierarchical level, and work context. But
we found that when the people we studied
took action on just four or five of them,
they were able to claw back 18% to 24% of
their collaborative time.
Collaborative overload generally occurs in
either a surge or a slow burn. A surge can
result from a promotion, a request from
a boss or a colleague to take on or help
out with a project, or the desire to jump
into an “extracurricular” work activity
because you feel obligated or don’t want
to miss out. Consider Mike, an insurance
company executive who was already
managing multiple projects—one of which
had his entire team working day and night
to turn around a struggling segment of
the business. When his boss asked him to
help create a new unit that would allow
the company to present a single face to
the market, he felt he couldn’t say no. It
was a great development opportunity—to
which his skills were perfectly suited—
and it offered prime exposure to senior
management. Yet he couldn’t abandon his
existing team in the midst of its work. So he
decided to do both jobs at once.
A slow burn is more insidious and occurs
through incremental increases in the
volume, diversity, and pace of collaborative
demands over time, as personal
effectiveness leads to larger networks and
greater scope of responsibilities. Go-to
people in organizations suffer from this
type of overload. As we gain experience,
we often tend to take on more work, and
our identities start to become intertwined
with accomplishment, helping, or being
in the know. We tend not to question what
we are doing as we add tasks or work late
into the night on e‑mail. And, of course,
our colleagues welcome these tendencies;
as we gain reputations for competence and
responsiveness, people in our networks
bring us more work and requests. Ellen, an
18-year veteran of a Fortune 100 technology
company, is a case in point. She was fiercely
driven and took pride in her ability to
help colleagues, solve problems, and cut
through bureaucracy to get things done.
Eventually, however, she felt weighed
down by a list of projects and commitments
that were “beyond the realm of doable.”
Though Mike’s and Ellen’s situations
are different, our research suggests that
the solutions to their and others’ overload
problems are similar. They cannot continue
to work the same way they always have and
remain effective. They need to take better
charge of their working lives.
The first step in combating collaborative
overload is to recognize how much of it is
driven by your own desire to maintain a
reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable,
or influential colleague or to avoid the
anxiety that stems from ceding control
over or declining to participate in group
work. For example, someone who engages
in the entire life cycle of a small project,
beyond the time when the need for her
expertise has passed, might pride herself
on supporting teammates and ensuring a
high-quality result. But that’s not the kind
of collaboration that makes a difference
over the long term; indeed, too much
of it will prevent her from doing moreimportant work.
Knowing why you accept collaborative
work—above and beyond what your
manager and your company demand—is
how you begin to combat overload. When
we counsel executives, we ask them to
reflect on the specific identity-based
triggers that most often lead them into
overload. For example: Do you crave the
feeling of accomplishment that comes from
ticking less challenging items off your to-do
list? Does your ambition to be influential
or recognized for your expertise cause
you to attend meetings or discussions that
don’t truly require your involvement? Do
you pride yourself on being always ready
to answer questions and pitch in on group
work? Do you agree to take on collaborative
activities because you’re worried about
being labeled a poor performer or not
a team player? Are you uncomfortable
staying away from certain issues or projects
because you fear missing out on something
or aren’t sure the work will be done right
without you? Most executives we’ve
encountered answer yes to one if not several
of those questions.
Efficient collaborators remember that
saying yes to something always means
saying no to—or participating less fully in—
something else. They remind themselves
that small wins (an empty in-box, a
perfectly worded report, a single client call)
are not always important ones. They think
carefully about their areas of expertise and
determine when they do, or don’t, have
value to add. They stop seeing themselves
as indispensable and shift the source of
their self-worth so that it comes from not
just showcasing their own capabilities but
also stepping away to let others develop
theirs and gain visibility.
As one executive told us, “I have come to
the realization that if people really need me,
they will find me. I am probably skipping
30% of my meetings now, and work seems
to be getting done just fine.”
When Mike found himself at a breaking
point with his twin projects, he realized
how much of his self-worth derived from
always saying yes to—and then achieving—
the goals suggested to him. “It took falling
down and a patient spouse to really see this
pattern,” he says. He decided that he needed
to set clear priorities in both his career
and his personal life. “Then saying no was
not about my not coming through but about
maintaining focus on what mattered.”
Ellen, too, realized that her selfimage as a helper—constantly looking
for opportunities to contribute and
never declining a request—had become
problematic. “The difficult part is
recognizing this tendency in the moment
and working hard not to jump in,” she
acknowledges. “But I told my team how
important this was and also asked a few
people to be ‘truth tellers’ who caution me
when they see it happening.”
Next you’ll need to restructure your
role, schedule, and network to avoid the
triggers you’ve identified and reduce or
eliminate unnecessary collaboration.
Rather than thinking things will get better
on their own, living reactively, and falling
into patterns dictated by other people’s
objectives, efficient collaborators play
offense on collaborative overload. They
clarify their “north star” objectives—the
strengths they want to employ in their
work and the values they want to embody,
in the context of their organization’s
priorities—and then streamline their
working lives in a way that buffers them
against nonaligned requests.
Start by reviewing your calendar and
e‑mail communications on a regular basis,
using a tool such as Microsoft’s MyAnalytics
or Cisco’s “human network intelligence”
platform. Look back four or five months
to identify recurring group activities,
meetings, or exchanges that aren’t core
to your success and could be declined
or offered to others as a developmental
opportunity. Consider decisions you’re
being pulled into unnecessarily and how
processes or teams might be changed so
that you needn’t be involved. Recognize
when you’re being sought out for
information or expertise in areas no
longer central to your role or ambitions
and figure out whether you could share
your knowledge more widely on your
company’s intranet or if another go-to
person might derive greater benefit from
that collaboration.
At the same time, work to reset
colleagues’ expectations about the level
and timeliness of your engagement. Clarify,
for example, that not responding to a group
e‑mail or opting out of a meeting does not
mean you lack interest or appreciation. Talk
about your key priorities so that everyone
knows what you need (and want) to spend
the most time on. Ask colleagues about
their interests and ambitions so that you
can identify opportunities to distribute
or delegate work. A key inflection point
for all the executives we’ve counseled
has been when they start seeing requests
for collaboration as ways to activate and
engage those in their networks rather than
as adding to their own to-do lists.
Finally, block out time for reflective
work and seek collaboration with those
who can help you move toward your north
star objectives. Mike focused on building
capabilities in the business unit he directed.
Instead of jumping at unrelated projects for
political exposure, he began to differentiate
himself through expertise and his team’s
contribution. Ellen’s strategy was to create
exceptionally clear boundaries: “I am there
8 am to 6 pm, and people know I give 100%
To evaluate your state of collaborative
overload, go to
and take the assessment built from this research.
then. But after that I don’t let myself get
drawn into unnecessary e‑mail, calls, or
late-night work just to help out.”
Another leader described the shift like
this: “Playing defense sucks. You are always
reactive and living in fear. The only way to
escape it is to get clarity on who you are and
what you want to do and start forging a path
and network that enable you to get there.”
Once you’ve taken stock of your
collaborative workload, it’s
time to enhance the value of the
collaboration you’ve chosen to
participate in. Our research suggests
that poorly run meetings are the
biggest time sink in organizations.
Even if you don’t control the ones
you attend, you can make them more
productive by, for example, asking the
leader to circulate an agenda or a pre-read
before the gathering and a short e‑mail
on agreements, commitments, and next
steps afterward. You can also limit your
involvement by explaining that you have
a hard stop (real or constructed) so that
you’re not stuck when others run overtime,
and asking to attend only those portions for
which you are needed or agreeing to half
the time a colleague or employee requests.
It’s crucial to establish norms early on
in any relationship or group. If you wait,
problems will become harder to address.
You can also institute or encourage new
norms for e‑mails by addressing format (for
example, observing a maximum length and
choosing an outline structure with bullets,
as opposed to full-text paragraphs), the
use of “cc” and “reply all,” and appropriate
response times for various types of
requests. Consider virtual collaboration
tools (such as Google Docs), which offer a
better medium for work that is exploratory
(defining a problem space or brainstorming
solutions) or integrative (when people
with varying expertise, perspectives, or
work assignments need to produce a joint
solution). The key is to ensure that you’re
using the right tools at the right time and
not worsening collaborative demands.
You should also learn to recognize when a
conversation has become too complicated
or contentious for e‑mail or chat and switch
to a more efficient phone call or face-toface meeting.
For one-on-one interactions, always
consider whether you are consuming your
counterpart’s time efficiently. Ask yourself,
“Am I clear on what I want to accomplish
from a meeting or a conversation?” And
invite others to be equally disciplined by
asking early on, “So that I use your time
well, would you quickly let me know what
you hope we can accomplish together?”
When it comes to building your
network, focus on the quality of the
relationships, not the number of
connections. We repeatedly found that
efficient collaborators draw people to
collaborative work by conferring status,
envisioning joint success, diffusing
ownership, and generating a sense of
purpose and energy around an outcome.
By creating “pull”—rather than simply
pushing their agenda—they get greater and
more-aligned participation and build trust
so that people don’t feel the need to seek
excessive input or approval.
Ellen, for example, decided to engage
stakeholders in collaborative work early to
save time later in the process. “I used to dot
every i and cross every t before approaching
others,” she says. “But I’ve learned that if
I get a plan partially developed and then
bring in my team, my boss, even my clients,
they get invested and help me spot flaws,
and I avoid tons of downstream work to
fix things or convince people.” Another
leader we know schedules one-on-ones
with direct reports to discuss priorities,
values, and personal aspirations, enhancing
their ability to work together efficiently as
a team in the future. “There are so many
ways people can misinterpret actions and
then cause a lot of churn later,” he says. “If
I spend the time to give them a sense of
where I’m coming from, it saves all sorts of
time in unnecessary collaborations.”
THE RECENT EXPLOSION in the volume and
diversity of collaborative demands is a
reality that’s here to stay. Unfortunately,
the invisible nature of these demands
means that few organizations are managing
collaborative activity strategically. So it falls
to you, the individual, to fight overload and
reclaim your collaborative time.

HBR Reprint R1804L
ROB CROSS is the Edward A. Madden Professor
of Global Leadership at Babson College.
SCOTT TAYLOR is an associate professor of
organizational behavior at Babson College.
DEB ZEHNER has 15 years of experience conducting
research, developing network-based assets, and
leading organizational network projects, most
recently with Connected Commons.
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