One of the biggest challenges for today’s professional is to be productive, that is, to use their time well, to be effective in their actions, and to achieve the best results with lowest energy. In a survey that my Brazilian Portal GestaoIndustrial.com did in 2015, about waste of time at work, respondents pointed out that 61.5% of this waste is linked to unproductive meetings and excess email. The key word when it comes to productivity is “habit,” of course, good habits. And the habit comes from discipline, determination, and awareness.
#1 – Do not send email if you can solve the matter by talking. Let’s face it, reading the mailbox is one of the least interesting and most unproductive tasks in an organization. A 2012 GestaoIndustrial.com survey on Email Use in Organizations showed that 49% of respondents usually spend two hours or more on emails. It’s too much, and a paradox, because email is a tool for increasing productivity, not destroying it. Email is, in fact, a great tool for sending documents and communicating between distant people quickly and easily, but it has been misused. A lot of time is wasted in Organizations writing or reading emails. Imagine a person copying an email to twelve people, but only two of them really needed to be copied, and if we consider that each one takes about 15 minutes to read and understand the email, that was just 2.5 hours wasted from paid professionals. If this happens 3 times a day (depending on the size of the Organization, it may be much more), it will be 7.5 hours / day, or approximately 150 hours / month (and we just considered one unnecessarily copied email). Add to that so many emails that didn’t need to be written, and compute the time of the writer, and the time of the reader. We can arrive at stratospheric values of hours of work wasted. Considering the survey on Email Use in Organizations, we found that 25% of respondents say they spend 4 hours or more on emails. If we consider that half of that time was wasteful, an Organization with 100 employees would have wasted 1000 hours of professionals in the month. Therefore, to avoid wasting your time, and that of your colleagues, do not send email if you can solve the matter by just talking.
#2 – If you really need to send an email, make it as clear and objective as possible; and only involve the neede people. Ok, you really need to send an email. So make clear, well-written and objective text, using points and commas (yes, points and commas help a lot in understanding the message), and taking care to involve only who should be involved. Remember that each additional person you send will be one less person doing something else when reading your email. The exaggeration in “copy to” emails even elicits reactions such as “As I am copied in so many emails, I don’t read them. When it matters, they send it straight to me.” That’s real, I’ve seen it in several of the organizations where I worked. The problem is that you think the other person is aware of the subject but not. This is a consequence of the banal use of email. There are many professionals who prefer to sit around all day just sending emails. Then, it does not interact with colleagues, and does not dialogue (just by email – incidentally, to be dialoguing by email, in that endless back and forth of messages is a real nonsense and annihilates productivity). Therefore, if you need to use email, be objective, clear and concise in the text, and reasonable in choosing recipients.
#3 – Do not set up a meeting if you can resolve the issue by going to the desk of one or two colleagues. Unproductive meetings are always in the top causes of unproductiivty in most of the surveys. The Salary.com website did a survey in 2014 and found that too many meetings was the second most wasted time item. In the GestaoIndustrial.com survey, unproductive meetings came first, with 31.2%. I’ve avoided countless meetings, just going to talk at a desk of one or two colleagues. I avoided both the meetings, the ones I would organize, as well as the meetings already scheduled by others. Yes, even meetings that were already scheduled by other colleagues!
In situations that I found to be simple to resolve the issue without the meeting, I look for the person who arranged the meeting (in same cases, going also to another colleague’s desk) and resolve the issue only by a few minutes talking (without having the scheduled meeting).
#4 – If you really need to set up a meeting, use the 8 steps to organize effective meetings, and the other 9 steps to lead it. I have written two previous posts that talk in detail about organizing a meeting (The Right Steps to Organize Effective Meetings!) And another about how to lead a meeting (How to Lead Meetings Effectively?). Here are the key points to keep in mind when organizing and leading a meeting:
The 8 Steps to Organize Effective Meetings:
- Before to arrange a meeting, make sure that you can not solve the issue Just going to the desks of some of your colleagues.
- Make sure to invite the key persons, and just them.
- Make clear, previously, the objectives of the meeting.
- Make sure to provide, previously, all the information needed for the attendant to contribute during the meeting.
- Set the duration of the meeting, putting the start time and end time.
- Ask for those who cannot attend, to send a substitute by delegation.
- Book the room.
- Send the meeting invitation.
The 9 Steps to Lead Meetings Effectively:
- Start on time!
- Remind everyone about the purpose of the meeting right at the beginning of the meeting!
- Keep track of time, agenda and goals!
- Keep the respect and discipline!
- When decisions are to be taken, there are usually two options: a consensus decision or by vote.
- Establish clear actions and the owners!
- Create the meeting minutes!
- Distribute the meeting minutes!
#5 – Do not navigate unproductive and silence some beeps from smartphone during the work time; and check social networks at lunch time. The 2014 Salary.com (IBM) survey on Wasting Time at Work Survey showed that the biggest waste of time at work is related to internet browsing. Today, in addition to the internet, smartphone messaging applications are also a source of wasted time and, even worse, a focus of inattention. While messaging applications are a good communication tool, they are being misused, and as a result the use of it are following the same bad path as the use of email did. There is a lot of overuse of these applications, with a huge sharing of photos and videos of all kinds, all the time. Lack of judgment, lack of common sense. Those that are part of several groups in this type of messaging application can hear the incoming signal of new messages / media at all times. Similar thing happens with social networking apps. This way, if you do not silence these warnings, you will be deconcentrated, consciously or not.
Following these habits can make your and your colleague’s work more productive. The Organization, as a whole, can increase its productivity through orientation campaigns and the application of internal rules, aiming to discipline the behavior of its employees, aiming at the implementation of these productivity habits. So everyone wins!