Now, if you’ve completed the tasks assigned in the previous two challenges, you’ve saved 1h45 minutes but that’s not enough, not nearly enough. We need to go deeper!
Today, this is what we are doing with our challenge no.3. Today, we tackle Time Management directly!
Yea, by the end this challenge, we’ll be at 2.5 hours saved or more than 10% of a day.
Now, why do you want to take control of your calendar? Has it done anything wrong? Yes! it did. Don’t know what I mean? read this article from Fast Company. the TL;DR for this is that, every time you get interrupted, you basically lose 30 minutes just to get your head back together. For those of you who have some lean manufacturing training, you’ll recognize that disruptions in the process flow introduce a lot of waste. That’s pretty much the same thing here.
Another reason to want to control your calendar is meetings. For those of you in the corporate world, you know how much of a time suck meetings are. If you want more convincing, check out this article from Psychology Today where they advocate cancelling 50% of your meetings to get more work done. Well, we’ll start with that.
Step 1 – Remove and Reduce Meetings
You already know that meetings are (mostly) a waste of time. There are two problems though. The first is the “mostly”. While most meetings are stupid, some are actually very effective ways to get things done. How the hell do you differentiate them? The second problem is that there are a lot of people who want you to attend their meetings. How do you tell them “no” without sounding like a jerk? Today we’ll address these two problems
The first thing you need to know is the profile of an effective meeting.
- An effective meeting will have a pre-published agenda with clear start times and end times for each item. The goals of the meeting are also written down and clear
- The meeting starts on time even if everyone has not yet arrived. It also ends on time.
- Each person in the meeting is aware of his/her role.
There are things you can do above these to make your meeting more effective, but these three points are the minimum. Basically, you can assume that any meeting that doesn’t meet these criteria is a waste of time and should be cancelled.
For the meetings that do meet these criteria, you should still ask yourself if your presence is really necessary. Ask these questions:
- Is my contribution linked to a debate of some sort or is it just factual? (eg. you only need to send information on how many widgets sold last quarter) For factual data, you could only send an email to the organizer and skip going to meeting itself.
- Can the meeting be held on the phone or by videoconference? Even if everyone is in the same building, the time to walk between meeting rooms is completely lost and, if you can eliminate it, you should.
Now, you keep getting requests for useless meetings that you have to say “no” to but don’t want to end up looking like a negative jerk? Continue on to step 2.
Step 2 – Make your calendar your b*tch
OK, here’s the deal. Your calendar is a tremendous tool for organizing your day. Within your organization, it also broadcasts your availability. And that’s a key thing to remember.
Most people only schedule meetings or appointments in their calendars and that’s a mistake. Think about it for a second. If you have a meeting from 3 to 3:30, then another one from 4:30 to 5. Does that mean that from 3:30 to 4:30 you sit at your desk looking at the wall? No, you have work to do. Most likely important work too. So why is your calendar saying that you are available?
So how should you do it? Well, here it goes:
- Add your actions to your agenda. For example, you know you have to work for 2-3 hours on a report. put it as if it were a meeting. You schedule 2x30min a day for your emails? Add it to your calendar.
- For small tasks that take less than 30 minutes to complete, you can add a general To-Do appointment to your schedule.
- Know your most productive hours and schedule meetings AWAY from them. For example, if you are most efficient in the morning, schedule your important tasks there and less important meetings in the afternoon.
By scheduling your actions, you’ll be more organized and you can control when people book you for meetings. This will allow you to have uninterrupted time to work or your projects or priorities. Remember, a break = 30 minutes lost.
Step 3 – One on One meetings with your employees
This is the single most effective management tool on this planet. Do this weekly and you’ll already come out as more effective than 90% of all managers out there. You’ll crush it!
If you want the step-by-step guide on how to run your O3s (One On One, not ozone), I’ll refer you to the manager-tools basics podcast series. They spend a few episodes shaping you into a O3 expert.
How can a weekly 30 minute meeting with each employee help you manage your time? Well… by giving each employee a fixed time slot, half an hour per week, to talk to you, you’ll concentrate all the questions that might have during that time slot. Instead of interrupting you fairly often during the week, they’ll see you during their O3.
Another way that O3s help reduce interruption is by creating a stronger bond with your employees. You get to know them better and they get to know you. They get to understand what decisions they can take by themselves and feel comfortable doing it. In the end, they come to you less often for guidance or for signing off on things.
Now, in terms of actions, as I said earlier, I can’t possibly explain it better than Mark and Mike at Manager-Tools.com so I’ll just link to the first One On One podcast. Get it Here!.
Further Resources – Want to learn more about the topic?
- Manager Tools: Yea, you’ll see Manager Tools in this section a few times.Here is the link to the One on One podcast series. They also have a pretty good cast series on calendar management which fits the theme of today’s challenge.
- Effective Meetings: I found this site doing research for this challenge. They have this nifty meeting cost calculator that you can use to show your coworkers and boss how damn expensive meetings are.
And here are a few articles that discuss the same subject.
- Is Your Calendar Managing You? An HBR article on how to reclaim control of your calendar to be more effective.
- 10 Tips to Keep Your Calendar Lean and Mean. This article deals with different types of tips about how to control your calendar such as communicating appointment requests, etc.
- The Secret To Effective One-On-One Meetings With Direct Reports. This article from Forbes outlines a few important points for One on One meetings.
Here are the links to the previous challenges.
- Productivity Challenge Chapter One – Email Management
- Productivity Challenge Chapter Two – Automation
You are getting the hang of this, you are saving more and more time per day. You are starting to leave your competitors behind. How do you feel?
As always, if you want to receive my blog posts directly in your email, sign up for the Newsletter here. If you want to join the 7 day challenge email course and get all 7 chapters within a week, you can sign up here.