1. Keep everything as short as possible, but no shorter
Why are most meetings set for an hour? More bizarre, why do most of them actually take the entire hour?
We’ve heard this before: “Let’s set the meeting for two hours. We probably don’t need that entire time, but we’ll block the time just in case.”
The meeting almost always takes the full two hours.
Why not try the reverse and set meetings for 30 minutes? You know, just in case you don’t have that much valuable stuff to talk about.
2. Activity doesn’t mean productivity
- “I have back-to-back meetings all day.”
- “I had 600 emails in my inbox I came back from vacation.”
- “I have to be in the UK next week, then Tokyo two weeks after.”
What we can never figure out is why these statements are made as if they were some great achievement. What part of those statements indicate producing anything or delivering any benefits to customers?
3. Unimportant activities done efficiently are still unimportant
You can optimize your life all you want. But saving five minutes in a 60 minute process does no good to the world, if you fill those five minutes with more useless activities.
4. No, it doesn’t have to be done that way
Be very cautious with people that talk in absolutes. You drink up their thinking too much, you’ll be thinking that there is never any other alternative.
Two things you can do:
- Ask them to clearly state their assumptions. Then identify the assumptions behind those assumptions. And so on. You’ll probably find that each assumption step backward becomes weaker and weaker. And in the end, it wasn’t so absolute after all.
- Look for a sense of fear. A lot of times people are simply afraid of change. And it may not be entirely their fault. Work together to overcome that fear.
5. Clear the clutter
When we were management consultants, our entire careers were in our laptop bags. (And the rest of our lives in our carry-on bags.)
- No steel filing cabinets
- No color coded hanging folders
- No docking station and external monitor
- Not even a mug with pens
But things got done.
Try some experiments. Take one thing out and see how much your productivity changes. No change. Then no need to revert to the old system.
Don’t forget though, removing junk out of your life won’t matter if you keep on bringing in new junk.
When you work, find blocks of time where you can work without interruption. Start the activity like building a PowerPoint deck, developing an Excel model or drafting a supplier contract.
Here’s the key: work through completion.
It may be be rough. Even ugly. But you’ll have a complete product. You can then spend shorter blocks of time later to do the polishing it may need.
7. Be cool
This is simple:
- Be thankful when you get a chance to help someone
- Be generous with sharing your ideas
- Jump at the chance to work with people much more talented than you
- Count two seconds before you comment in a discussion.
- Think about what your kids would say, if they knew every last detail of your actions
- Ask yourself if you’d want to be in a 12 hour flight with yourself
All your ideas are useless if they remain in your head, in the meeting minutes, or in a PowerPoint presentation.
There’s a concept called minimum viable product (MVP). We didn’t invent the term, though we wish we did. We do however, focus obsessively on this.
Decide on what a solid product is and get it out the door as soon as you hit the minimum threshold.
In the time you spend discussing, building decision tress, mind maps and “socializing” your deck, you could already have completed multiple real live iterations.
The feedback and progress from those iterations will be far better than what you can get from within a conference room.