Category: Time Management (Page 1 of 2)

3 Ways to Stop a Meeting That Just Won’t End by HBR

We’ve all been in meetings that seem like they go on and on and on. Instead of watching the clock, take matters into your own hands:

  • Come prepared. You can avoid a chaotic, rambling conversation simply by showing up with a clearly articulated position on the topic to be discussed. Don’t push it on others, but offer to share it if people think doing so will speed up the discussion.
  • Set limits. If a meeting is notorious for starting late or running over, explain your time limitations up front. You might say, “I understand we’re starting late, but I have a commitment to the Murphy team I want to keep, so I have a hard stop at 10:45 AM.”
  • Name what’s happening. Listen to your gut. If you’re feeling lost, pay attention. If you’re feeling bored, notice it. There’s a good chance others feel the same. You can tactfully and tentatively share your concern to see if others are feeling similarly. You might say, “I’m not sure I’m tracking the discussion. We seem to be moving among three different agenda items. Are others seeing that too?”

Adapted from “7 Ways to Stop a Meeting from Dragging On,” by Joseph Grenny

What Sending After-Hours Emails Does To Your Productivity

Even if you aren’t working nights and weekends, the expectation of constant availability can cause you to burn out.

It’s 9 p.m. and you suddenly remember that you wanted to ask your employee about an upcoming project. Before you fire off an email, ask yourself, “Is this urgent?” If you’re sending the email simply because you don’t want to forget, your employee may not know your response expectations, and this can cause stress that negatively impacts your staff’s productivity and performance.

In a new report called “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect,” professors from Lehigh University, Virginia Tech, and Colorado State University found that an “always on” culture may prevent employees from fully disengaging from work, causing stress.

“It’s easy to depersonalize people when you’re using email, because you don’t see the effect you’re having,” says coauthor William Becker, associate professor of management at Virginia Tech. “When boundaries are blurred, it can create all kinds of problems. A lot of companies see the good parts of using email, and don’t think beyond that.”

 

In the study, participants reported spending an average of eight hours a week doing company-related emails after hours. The greater the amount of time spent on after-hours work, the less successful the employees were at detaching from work. This translated into poorer work-family balance, and even contributed to emotional exhaustion, which Becker says has been shown by prior research to negatively affect job performance.

“What we saw over time was that it’s the expectation that makes you exhausted,” says Becker. “It wasn’t about the time spent on email; it was assumed availability. Having an anticipation of work created a constant stressor.”

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

The authors of the study, which is being presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Academy of Management, call on leaders to create formal practices that establish expectations that can mitigate the negative effects of an always-on culture. Some companies instill a strict ban on after-hours emails, while others simply state that emails after hours don’t have to be returned until work hours the next day.

“Having a policy means the employee doesn’t have to interpret the expectation on their own,” says Becker. “It goes a long way toward setting what is okay, and relieves the employee of the feeling that they have to always be available. It also serves as a signal of organizational caring and support.”

If your company doesn’t have a policy, managers can help employees know expectations by creating their own departmental policy or at the least by being clear in the subject line or beginning of the email message.

“You can say, ‘I don’t want you to work on this now, but please do this tomorrow,’” says Becker. “It could go a long way. Maybe your company doesn’t need a policy, but you should always be thinking about the impact of sending an email at 10 p.m.”

Becker says that some companies have already realized that after-hours emails hurt a company’s bottom line. For example, management consultants Boston Consulting Group guarantees one email-free evening a week, while health care consultancy Vynamic prohibits correspondence after 10 p.m. and on weekends.

“European firms have been ahead of those in the U.S. in this regard,” says Becker. In May, France passed a labor reform law that makes weekend emails illegal.

“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly said in an interview with the BBC. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash—like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails—they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

While France has taken a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go on both sides of the Atlantic, says Becker. “Perhaps by revealing the damage these expectations can cause, our research will improve matters, as this is a problem that should be relatively amenable to solution,” he says.

 

FASTCOMPANY

3 Things Sabotaging Your Priorities

priorities

Maybe it’s your talkative coworker. Maybe it’s the project you were handed that never seems to end. Or, maybe it’s a family member that’s calling you off the hook. There’s always something sapping your attention and energy.

Here’s the scary thing about that: the people and projects that make the most noise and create the greatest pressure are not necessarily the most important. But they feel urgent, so we often give in just to relieve the pressure. The problem with that behavior is that it ultimately causes more pressure. Doing the less important things, because they are “louder” and demand attention, forfeits your ability to put your best time into the things that really matter. The result is that those bigger and more important things begin to crumble and even crash, causing much greater problems and pressures.

Philosopher William James said, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” In other words, the real genius is in knowing what not to do!

Are these three time-wasters destroying your productivity? If you are, then it might be time to do a little bit of recon on your priorities.

1. DEFAULTING TO “YES.”

Saying yes to everything and everyone dilutes your effectiveness. Sure, you can keep everyone else’s boats afloat, but what about everything you need to do to accomplish your own objectives? Remember, the more you say yes, the more you’re saying no to other opportunities that could be zipping right by you.
Identify only the tasks and projects you can do, and save room in your schedule for those things. If you get a new request, keep in mind you can say, “Let me get back with you.” Then, consult your schedule and your list of priorities to determine if the request is on track with your other goals.

2. ACTING LIKE A LONE WOLF.

We all know the antagonistic tune, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” which often rings true when working with a team. If you always work in a vacuum, you’re preventing your good idea from becoming a great idea. You’re also keeping people out of a process who might know things you need to know, or are better at executing a particular skill than you are. Delegating and collaborating are key to protecting your time and making the most of your plans. Don’t hesitate to bring in trusted voices and efficient teammates to achieve your priorities and protect your time.

3. PLAYING INSTEAD OF PAYING.

We all need a little break from the grind, but how much time are you spending on things you enjoy, things that are “fun” instead of ensuring your productivity. The major culprits for you might be social media, apps on your phone, or chatting with coworkers. Don’t totally abandon your Instagram or your weekly conversations with your office mate, just re-evaluate what it’s adding to your life and how it contributes to your priorities. Limit distractions without destroying your morale. Just remember, that it pays to be productive sooner and save playtime for later.

So, how can you cure yourself of wasting time and getting off track?

A great way to accomplish this is to practice something first coined by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, called the “Pareto Principle.”

The idea is this: by focusing your attention on the top 20% of all your priorities, you get an 80% return on your effort. You can’t do everything, but if you do the most important things first, you will gain your greatest results. It’s amazing how many of the less important things don’t need to be done.

People often ask, “How is this possible when the people around me require so many things of me?” You will gain momentum from being consistently successful in the big things that really matter. This will gain you more and more latitude in the things that are less important.

John Maxwell

 

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