I know that meetings and boss' requests are not really considered “distractions” but the truth is, they all get in the way of having your work done properly. I have a workaholic past (I prefer worklover, but it’s ok), always working at night and over-delivering until I had my first child.
When unable to continue at the same pace I need to change my work habits, and to my surprise that made me so much happier, as well my boss, who was astonished by all that I could deliver with less amount of time (mother skills + GTD method). Here’s what I had changed:
First thing in the morning I checked my email, but only for 30/40 minutes. Every email read should receive a destination (to solve the problem, to ask for information or to delegate, for example). After that, the email was closed (as well as other apps) so I can focus my best time (for me, the mornings) to develop important questions. I’d check my messages again at 4 pm. Until there, everyone that needed to comment on something already did, and the team had solved most of the problems without my interference, which was like heaven. That keeps me going through daily discussions, without stopping every 15 minutes to check a new opinion on that topic.
Needless to say that half of it could be avoided, but I know how it works, so we have to just deal with it. I tried my best to do them during the afternoon and schedule fixed meetings with my team, so they don’t need to set time aside by topic, once they knew that we can go through that on our weekly encounter. We also had a daily scrum, stand-up meeting for 30-minutes every morning. During this quick talk we align decisions that make the team more autonomous and avoid tons of unnecessary encounters.
If you don’t plan your week someone will make sure to do that for you. So at the end of every week I’d plan the next, blocking time in my agenda to work during my mornings, making sure the time-slot is not available to meetings. At the end of the day I’ll do a quick check for the next day, making adjustments when needed.
Reports are probably the most time-consuming (and wasted time) in all work-related tasks. Of course we all have metrics, KPIs and dashboards to check if our efforts are paying off, but set a time to just prove it’s unreasonable. Thousands of Power Points slides are created just to let people know what has been done, time that could have been used to actually keep doing the stuff. So I always make sure our internal and external clients can access it at any time in an effortless way for the team. It’s possible to arrange that by a shared work agenda, a status report or dashboard, with an automatic weekly email for the team.
I always had a problem saying “no” to people, but I learned a more effective way of dealing with this kind of situation: I give realistic deadlines. If everything that comes to you is urgent, that’s something wrong. When people realize that you are willing to help, but you need to accommodate that in your schedule they’ll start to plan it too. On the other hand, if I can’t really help, it’s better to say so right away than to suffer for weeks letting other people down afterwards.
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