It seems nowadays we’ve forgotten about the main functionality of the email: concise messages back and forth. As simple as that. Tim Ferriss explains it very clearly in his best selling 4 hours week book, when he recommends writing emails in such a way that the receiver gets pretty much all of the obvious angles it could cover. For example: “Are you available to meet later today? If so, is 3pm ok for you? Otherwise, let me know before 12 so I can arrange my schedule”.
Work focus and productivity
In programming, developers handle these scenarios on a daily basis. It’s called data validation and I think this is a really useful concept to consider, since something as basic as this is routinely ignored by project managers and leaders all over the industry. It’s becoming painfully common to find yourself trapped into one-hour meetings “just to clarify things”… Seriously? 🤨
Recently, there have been some interesting experiments regarding work productivity, that indicate the true value of focus while expending time in a task. In such experiments some companies have offered their workforce to be paid 40 hours but working only 32 hours a week, expecting of course an equal or better outcome. Meetings were kept at minimal, people were really motivated about getting things done as soon as possible, instead of procrastinating.
Every creative labor requires some amount of previous concentration, time to get in the zone if you will, and thus get the most of us in a certain task. This is the time where true productivity lives and it’s really (near impossible) to get there when we’re constantly getting dragged to meaningless meetings that could easily be solved with a well-crafted email.
4 practices to become more productive
What can we do to fix this and being more productive? Well, common sense will dictate the way:
1 – Convince your client/manager/leader to avoid 30min+ meetings: scarcity should be our main criteria when it comes to this kind of meetings (ideally once a week). If you’re like me and you work with an agile methodology such as Scrum, by all means try to schedule your daily meetings in a non-disruptive way (before starting work hours or right after a long break).
2 – Any digital device should be kept out of the meeting rooms: This is mandatory and I can’t really stress it enough; we’re now living in an era where attention is a commodity, it’ll prevent any of the participants to lose sight of the topic and make meetings last longer than necessary.
3 – All meetings should start with max. three well-defined topics: having a list from the very beginning helps move along the conversation and remove the wondering related to unplanned gatherings. If a meeting has more than 3 topics, it’s clear that at least two of them won’t be fixable in under 30 min or they might be so trivial that shouldn’t even be brought into conversation.
4 – Respect everyone else’s time and attention, finally this is just like a good listener/speaker rule. Don’t interrupt anybody during their focus time just because you’re taking a break. Be mindful about these interruptions, make them count so that people don’t just learn to ignore you.
There’s a place and a time for everything, I’m not voting in favor of turning all office into old-fashion-all-work-and-no-fun facilities. I’d just like everyone to avoid working in a stress-induced scenario, in which deadlines are not met. I’m a true believer that the lack of focus and the proliferation of interruptions have a great responsibility in that. We have the power to change the outcome.