A month ago, I started an experiment -- I decided to decline all phone call and coffee requests unless they were directly related to my company's immediate goals or my board seats. In a matter of days, I noticed a marked increase in my productivity and a decline in my anxiety over not getting things done. I had more time and energy for my company.
Every week, we waste hours of productivity sitting in unnecessary meetings that lead to other unnecessary meetings; hour-long coffee meetings that could have been resolved with a five-minute email; and hobnobbing at conferences that don't lead to sales or return on investments for our businesses.
You may think that conference call you convened to review your friend's new marketing software or talk with a potential sales partner is critical to your business, but the data says nobody is listening. A recent study found that, during a conference call:
65 percent of employees are doing other work
63 percent are sending emails
55 percent are eating
43 percent are checking social media
It's easy to feel a sense of accomplishment after a long day of meetings, but what did you really accomplish? Did you have time to write those critical emails, build that new feature, or write that blog post?
This is the trap of fake work. It was taking over my life, so I had to push back. Here's how it stop it from taking up all of your time.
Stop taking unnecessary coffee catchups.
Many novice entrepreneurs love to ask for coffee meetings to "pick your brain." Most seasoned entrepreneurs, on the other hand, get this request on a daily basis. If I took all the coffee meetings in my inbox, I would never get any real work done.
A coffee meeting isn't just an hour of your time at a coffee shop, but ramping down from your work, travel time, and ramping up again. And the vast majority of the time, all the things you wanted to discuss over coffee could have been addressed in email.
Solve problems through messages and emails, not meetings.
You may think you're speeding up problem solving by calling your employees into last-minute meetings to discuss your new idea, but in reality you are disrupting their flow and forcing them to abandon whatever they were working on.
When somebody wants your help and asks if you can hop on the phone, respond that you'll be able to provide feedback and guidance much faster if they message or email their questions. On the flip side, consider whether your problem or question really requires an in-person meeting or phone call. You'll always get a faster answer from a busy person via text.
Choose the conferences you attend very carefully.
Networking is important, but if all you do is go to conferences and network, you aren't actually accomplishing anything. Networking will not help you immediately deploy new features or give you the time to provide feedback and guidance to your team. And the cost in time and travel can be deadly to a young company.
Even speaking at a conference doesn't mean there will be a good ROI. Choose your events based on your company's top priorities. If you're going to fundraise in a few months, it makes sense to network with investors at VC event, but it won't make sense to go to a marketing meetup. If you're focused on sales, it makes sense to go to a conference with hundreds of prospects, but not so many you don't have time to follow-up and convert those leads into customers.
I'm biased because my company, Octane AI, fully embraces remote work, but sometimes staying away from the office is better for your productivity and your company's productivity. As my friend and Basecamp founder Jason Fried says in his book Rework, when you really need to be productive and ship something, is your first choice really a noisy office in the afternoon?
Locking yourself away from distractions and unnecessary meetings can be a major boost to your productivity. You need to have the right mindset and habits to be successful with remote work, though.