When it comes to work, the most rewarding days are undoubtedly the ones during which you make good progress on your to-do list while operating in a zone of flow. But it's a state that's hard to achieve unless you get a few simple things right. That's according to Amol Sarva cofounder of Knotel, a network of custom adaptable locations where companies can build their headquarters. Here are his words about the importance of mastering four simple factors when it comes to achieving high levels of productivity.
1. Be selfish with your time.
To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks," writes management guru Peter Drucker. "To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours."
This is not to say you can be a hermit. You also need dedicated office hours for structured social time. Nobody else on your team needs to know that schedule--only you do. Just go to the front of the office and make sure they can see you.
The final facet to the time management portion of productivity is developing some sort of broad outbound system that allows you to share your thoughts. Be public. Be open. Don't bottle your progress and problems and questions and ideas up inside. The more open you are, the easier it is for both you and your team to communicate in either direction.
2. Do away with meetings.
They are one of the biggest time wasters at work. Consider these statistics from Atlassian:
- The average employee attends 62 meetings each month.
- One-half of those meetings are considered a waste of time.
- Expect to waste 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings.
Altogether, these unnecessary meetings translate into $37 billion of salary expenses every year. Not exactly the smartest investment.
As it stands right now, nearly half of employees would rather do almost anything else instead of sitting in a status meeting. Seventeen percent of employees would rather watch paint dry than hear their boss ask everyone on the team where they stand on such-and-such project. Eight percent would rather have a root canal.
If you can't eliminate them completely, at least reimagine them. This requires looking at meetings analytically and realizing that, in their traditional form. They are not as important as we were led to believe.
For the most part, meetings are supposed to serve three purposes:
- You solve problems together.
- Deadlines are highlighted to create the social burden of having to deliver.
If you don't have these three functions, then you don't have a meeting.
Here's what meetings are not for:
- Information dissemination.
All of that fodder--which serves as the basis for most meetings--can be tackled with technology.
3. Manage priorities using the concepts of "now" and "later."
Take a pointer from David Allen's Getting Things Done productivity system: If something can be accomplished in two minutes or less, do it now. If not, delegate it or do it later.
And set aside enough time. Most people budget 30 minutes for something. Then the phone rings. Or maybe they budget an hour. Then they're called into a meeting. In either example, you lose your momentum. You have to reboot. You stall.
You can't do everything on your own. That's why the concept of cards is such an important piece of the productivity puzzle. Cards help everyone on your team follow what's going on. Cards are real things--you can see them. Every idea is a task and everyone can improve each one. You can describe what you're doing and have conversations around it. And you can follow what everyone else is doing, too.
Cards help you say goodbye to status meetings and reclaim more of your time.
Figure out what only you can do. Then figure out what you can get other people to do for you. Outsource when you can. Create lists with small simple steps so someone else can follow your train of thought without having to ask a million questions.
That's how Knotable was built. Our engineers work from home all over the world. Our management tool allows them to contribute on their own schedule. While people may feel weird asking questions in an in-person meeting with executives, we've found that people are more willing to share ideas when they can write them in text.
4. Hire and fire quickly.
How do you find the right people to take care of the responsibilities you can't? Hire anyone. You read that correctly. Give anyone who expresses interest a job. If they don't work out, fire them. Don't waste your time going through an arduous interview process. Don't evaluate someone's skills on a piece of paper or ask them where they went to school. Give them a task and see what they come up with. Some will fail. But you'll be surprised at how many work out.