Stop Stealing Productive Time

by | Productivity

Stop Stealing Productive Time

When I work with corporate clients, one of the biggest complaints is the number of meetings in a day. Often, these meetings start first thing in the morning, which steals the most productive time for them to focus and do in-depth work. They may get little 30-minute breaks in between, only to find that they pick the low-hanging fruit, like email, because it's not long enough to feel effective at starting a task. They tell me they work at home because they can't get anything done at the office.

For the love of kittens, please stop scheduling morning meetings!

Wait until at least 10 or 11am but before 3:00pm, to have that meeting. Have global attendees? Find a way at least two days a week at your company to prohibit early morning meetings, for everyone. Or, have No-Meeting Fridays or something similar to allow all staff to have one day to get work done without taking it home. 

And what's so great about one-hour? Just because it's the default in your Outlook doesn't mean that it's the best amount of time. Instead, shorten to 45-minutes and give people fifteen minutes for a biology break or to get to the next meeting. The number #1 reason why people are late for a meeting? Because they're trying to close out and get to another meeting in the same 60 seconds!

Make those meetings standing meetings. No one will mess around if they have to stand. It also tells our brain we are working and not at leisure. An architectural firm in Canada tries to do all meetings under 30 minutes as standing meetings. Emaar Properties in Dubai has tall tables in their conference rooms, so people have to stand.

Everyone needs deep work time. We need to focus. We would not think of interrupting a surgeon to ask a ‘quick question.' I would not think of interrupting my musician husband, in the middle of a song, yet we interrupt knowledge workers all the time. Science has proven it takes 15-25 minutes to get focused and in the deep zone. Why do we think we are different?

This year, I threw out my newsletter, which sucked the joy from my life but also didn't prove added value to my community. Instead, I decided to really give and started the program Focus90. One-two times a week I'm offering free, community-driven time to sign up for a session of virtual study hall. We meet over Zoom video, have our cameras on, but our sound off. I give one productivity tip, and we all write in the chat what we plan to accomplish in the next 80 minutes. Then, we get to work and GSD. At the end of the eighty minutes we write in the chat what we accomplished and if not, why not. I recap with the productivity tip, and we sign off.

What does this do?

Puts focus time on our calendar like any other meeting. I see your name on my list and look forward to you being there. When you don't show up, I cry (okay, not really, but it is promising time to someone that you will be in focus work, which can help you carve it out). It also allows us to see how long things really take since most people underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task. 

Here are some of the things people got done during their Focus90 time in the last week:

  • Tax prep for the accountant (major procrastination and this absolutely needed to get done!)
  • Writing a blog post.
  • Scheduling social media posts.
  • Creating a presentation.
  • Analyzing lab data for their clinical research trial.
  • Scheduling appointments that they kept putting off.

It works. Even for me. Last week I did not want to write my LinkedIn article, but because I said I was going to in the chat, I did it. If you're curious, sign up. It's free! It's easy! I'm not selling anything but time and this time is an investment. Invest in your focus and have time on your calendar to put that task to rest.

This post originally published on LinkedIn on April 15

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“Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.”

jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects