No Meeting Friday!

There was a huge positive response to last week’s tweets about no meetings on Fridays.  So, I thought it was appropriate for us to officially designate Fridays as “No Meeting Fridays.”

Many people have been saying that they are booked for so many meetings that they cannot get their work done.  Have you ever finished a work day and thought, “Wow, I was in meetings all day… I did not have one minute to do my work.”

If you let them, the “Outlook Outlaws” will take all of your time.  They will schedule unneccesary meetings all over your calendar.  They will steal your valuable time.

And let’s face it… most of these meetings are not worth the time committed…

  • They have no agenda – What are we even meeting about?
  • People are late – Very productive when you start 20 minutes late.
  • Are poorly run – Deteriorate into a 25 minutes discussion of hockey or last night’s TV shows.
  • Run over their time limit
  • Accomplish little – After your last meeting were there any decisions or actions to be taken? Or just another meeting scheduled?
  • People doing other things – What happens when meetings are poorly run & people are stuck in them all day?  People resort to doing their work during meetings!

So, let’s take back one day of the week for productivity!

Let’s declare Friday’s… Meeting Free!

The idea here is to protect an entire day for productivity.  Let’s spend Friday getting things done. Projects. Reports. Creative work. One-on-one coaching. Things that require time and are important.

So, how do you protect your Friday?

Start simple.  Block it out.  If you want to protect your time, you need to “Block it out.” If you do not schedule yourself for time to do work… you will quickly find that you do not have any.

“But, my employer will not allow me to do work all day on Friday.”  (How silly does that statement sound?)

Go ahead, block out all Friday.  Feels good, doesn’t it?

I did this last week. Now, a week later, I am happy to see my Friday schedule. I have only one 0.5 hour meeting this morning at 9AM.  After 930AM, I have the rest of the day scheduled to work on my projects.

If you block your Friday, you will observe a few things:

  • Most people will avoid scheduling on Friday.
  • A few will not – these are the people who would have double/triple booked your calendar anyway, or they have something important – these are the people you want to meet with anyway.
  • Friday will quickly become your most productive day of the week.  What a great feeling to finish the work week!
So, what are you waiting for?  Go ahead and mark next Friday! And let’s get productive. 🙂

Why Do We Let People Steal Our Time?

Thought of the day: Why do we let people steal our time?
We get pretty upset when people steal our money… so why do we turn a blind eye when people steal our time?
In fact, it is a pretty common occurrence for co-workers, bosses, even friends to steal our valuable time.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
– Ben Franklin
Time is our life.  And you cannot get it back.  Yet, our society has become desensitized to people monopolizing, interrupting, and simply taking our time.
In the workplace, this is rampant.  From meetings that are 4x the length they need to be…to meetings that were unneccesary in the first place.  People do not even think twice about taking our time.
The worst are the “Outlook Outlaws” who mercilessly schedule meetings on people’s calendars without notice or consideration to their time.  These types are constantly calling meetings so that they can get people together.  Perhaps, it is a power trip to make them feel important, or maybe it is done instead of them taking an active role to seek out information. (ie doing work!)
Too often we find that we are scheduled for so many extraneous meetings, that we do not leave any time to get our real work done!

Stop Answering the Phone!

Once upon a time people rushed to answer phones.  For those old enough to remember, you had to get to the phone.

At one point we did not have answering machines.  We did not have even have CallerID.

So, if you didn’t get to the phone…you did not even know who called.


Today is different.  We carry our phones in our pockets.  We take them everywhere.  (Even to the bathroom).

We have CallerId and visual voicemail.  We know who is calling, who called, and what they wanted.
Yet… most people continue to let the phone rule their life instead of using it as a productivity tool.
Too often you see people answering their phones in a meeting.  During a conversation.  And yes, even in the movie theatre and in the bathroom!
Why do we do this?
It is a huge time waster.  And it destroys productivity.
My recommendation to improve your time management and productivity is simple…
Stop Answering the Phone! 🙂
Experiment: Do not answer your phone for a week.  Yes.  You are going to intentionally miss calls.  If you have visual voicemail or a service that emails your VM’s, you will quickly know what you missed.  You will be surprised how many calls were unnecessary or resolve themselves.  Or better yet, can be addressed later on your timetable.
Just because Johnny wants to know what restaurant you want to eat at next week on the business trip, does not mean he needs to interupt you in the middle of a report you are constructing.
Tips for when you need to answer:
  • Answer  with name of person of the person calling (they should already be in your address book and thus on CallerId)

This lets them know immediately that you know who you are talking to and avoids the “Hi.  Hi, it’s John.  Hi. How are you? Good.  Did I catch you at a good time?”

  • Ask them immediately “What can I do for you?”

Best answer: “Hi John. What can I do for you?”

This can be a bit pointed, but it cuts right to the chase.  You will find that people will very quickly let you know why they are calling.  You can then respond by letting them know what you can do or that this immediate moment is not a good time.
With a little self-control, the phone can be a productivity tool, not a time thief.  It is there for your convenience.  Remember that next time you are tempted to answer it while in the middle of something.
You will probably even make the person you are with feel important since you did not take the call while speaking with them. 🙂
What are your best phone productivity tips?

How early are you?

Trick question: When do you show up for the 9AM meeting?

If you are like most people in the workplace, you shuffle around and or even get to work at 9AM and then head down the hall to the meeting.

What happens?  People are wandering in for a good 5-10 mins.  They make small talk and the meeting does not start until 9:10-9:15. Right?

I show up at 8:50.

Yes, a full ten minutes early.  Why? Because it scares people.  Just kidding, but more on that in a minute.

I show up early so that I am ready to start the meeting on time.  It sends a message to my team, whether or not I was the one who called the meeting.  It also gives you a buffer in case something comes up, you will be on time vs. late.

Some are already thinking, well, that is a lot of time.  10 minutes.  If you have 6 meetings in a day, you would be wasting a full hour waiting for meetings to start.

The Most Productive 10 Minutes

Here is the secret.  I get more done in those 10 minutes than most people do in a full hour.  In 10 minutes, you can knock out 5 “two minute tasks.”  (For you GTDer’s)  You can address 10 or more emails.  You can even get 1-2 phone calls done.

Another little secret.  Those 10 mins are some of the best relationship building/networking times.  There is always small talk before a meeting. But, you also have a captive audience of some of your co-workers that you might need to touch base on for something else.

Some of the best things to do in those 10 minutes:

  • Review your todo list – Visiblity to your tasks leads to action.
  • Send off several emails – If you have issues keeping your inbox at zero, this is a great time to act.
  • Make a phone call or two – Not to interfere with the start of the meeting, of course.
  • Read papers or documents – Great time to review items.
  • Touch base or just chat with co-workers on other topics that need to be addressed.

Scaring Your Co-workers

If you take this lesson to heart, within only a few days you will hear whispers from your co-workers.  It will freak them out when they repeatedly come to a meeting and you are already there.  Ready.  And Prepared.

An additional benefit… you will notice that people will start to respect your time more. Meetings will start closer to on time and people will shame themselves if they are not there.

By the way… when does the 9AM meeting end?

By 9:50, of course.  You may have a 10:00 meeting.  🙂

What are you thoughts on how meetings run at your organization?  Please add your comments below.

Email – Only 5 lines?

If you Twitter a lot… you know that every character counts.  140 is not a lot to say. So, you find yourself omitting words, leaving out spaces, changing before to b4, etc.

I wonder how much Twitter is changing our current langauge/communication styles?  Simple words like “very” are replacing fancy words like “extremely.”  Poor words like “the” and double spaces at the end of sentences are disappearing as quickly as global warming.

The other day I was writing some emails and noticed that I was being very brief.  Also, I had adopted some Twitterism’s…leaving out unnecessary words here or there.

Which got me thinking… What if all emails were limited?  Maybe to an arbitrary 5 lines?

What would be some of the benefits?

  • Quicker reading of messages
  • Emails would have to focus on the most important details of the message
  • People would stop wasting time writing marathon emails
  • Co-workers would be forced to actually have a conversation when the topic was more than brief thought

What are you thoughts?  Would limiting emails to 5 lines increase productivity in the workplace?

Lose your laptop for increased Productivity?

Accidentally left my laptop at home yesterday when I headed into the office.  My first instinct was to immediately turn around and head home to get it. After all, how was I going to function with out it? How was I going to get work done?

I do not live far from the office, so we were not talking a long trip to go back and get it. It was more the principle of the matter.  My iPhone was with me, so I could check email as needed. But, I was determined not to sit there sending off emails on my iPhone all day.

My workplace is definitely a laptop-slinging world where people rarely attend meetings without them.  But, to my surprise, I found that I actually got a lot more done without my laptop:

  • Walking around – I am a huge fan of “walking around” to get things done.  I am not talking about walking around the office to “gossip.” But rather, interfacing with people face-to-face.  I often tell my team to “reach out and touch someone.”  Instead of sending an email to someone down the hall.  Go down there and discuss it in person.  Amazing how much quicker business gets done.
  • Making Meetings More Productive – At my office, it freaks people out if you come to a meeting without your laptop.  By attending sans laptop, and simply paying attention to everyone, it really startled people.  Sounds pretty basic, but try it, you will be surprised the impact it will have in your workplace.
  • Concentrating on Tangible Tasks – Without my laptop, I found myself working more on tangible tasks.  Instead of slogging through email and surfing through articles on the web, I got more done working by hand.  I developed several projects in my notebook and was very productive.

So, does technology really bring productivity?  Too many companies rely on it without really looking at whether it is an productivity enabler or a hindrance.  A recent study shows that workers spend on average 13 hours a week on email!  This can be up to a quarter of their time.  What could they do if they had that time back?

Some companies have email-less Fridays.  I would recommend that companies go further and have a day each week dedicated to unplugging entirely from the computer.

What are your thoughts on technology and productivity?  How does it impact your company?

PS – Thanks for @StephCalahan for the article link.

Deposit Checks via iPhone! USAA

USAA Banking App allows check deposit via iPhone

USAA has had one of the leading banking apps for the iPhone for some time.

Always pushing forward, USAA upgraded their app yesterday to include check deposit via your iPhone.

You read that right… USAA customers can now deposit checks by simply taking pictures of the front and back of the check.  And magic!  It is deposited in your account.

USAA has had the Deposit@Home feature for some time that has allowed their customers to deposit checks via their home computers with a scanner.  It works well.

I have yet to test this new app.  I don’t have any checks to deposit!  In fact, I cannot remember the last time I had to deposit a check.

As slick as this app is, I wonder if it is quicker that the 30 seconds it takes me to put a check in a pre-paid deposit envelope and walk it to the mailbox. Then again, if you want almost instant deposit this could really be a time saver.

Block Your Time

As part of my daily prep, checking my calendar is one of the most important tasks.  After all, most of us live by our calendars to schedule our time.
One of the most important tasks I do is to “Block Time” on my calendar.  I usually do this at the beginning of each week.
What is Blocking Time?  Well, it is simply scheduling time for your activities.  You have probably heard of “scheduling a meeting with yourself” and Blocking Time is just that, taken to the next level.
If your job/company utilizes Outlook, then Blocking Time can become a critical task.  At my company, death by meeting…. via Outlook is not uncommon.  People seem to have no qualm about scheduling your time for a last minute meeting because they did not do something on schedule.  Worse yet, many of these meetings have no clear objective or agenda.
So, what is a Time Management Ninja to do?  Schedule his own meetings, of course.  Lots of them.  🙂
The first week I did this, it was a bit scary.  I scheduled about half of my time on my Outlook calendar.  I labeled each of these meetings “Block Time.”  Then I went and put in each block a task that I had to get done.
Amazingly, I was more productive that week than I had been in a long time.  Instead or running around to all kinds of meetings, I actually sat down and did my work.
Blocking Time accomplished a few things:
  • Prevented myself from being invited to last minute meetings
  • Allowed me time to get my obligations done
  • Prevented people from stealing my time
A few other Ninja tips:
  • Block Time for personal tasks too.  Even something as simple as running an errand.
  • One Calendar – Use only one calendar.  You can use different colors/buckets for Work/Life, but one calendar ensures that your obligations do not go overlooked.
  • Be ruthless! – I regularly schedule 60-70% of my time.  Some people think this sounds extreme.  I ask, “Do you want to choose what you do with your time?  Or let others?”