And Four Ways For You To Reclaim Your Time
You want to see the real answer to what you value? Look at your calendar, because how you spend your time is the truest representation of what you care about. I’m going to caveat this entire post with the acknowledgement that almost no one has true ownership of all their time and that the vast majority of people are not in positions to exert agency over their work hours. Many professions ask that you are a schedule taker, not a schedule maker. Sometimes this is merely a result of their working arrangements or nature of their lives and commitments. Other times it’s the unkind practices of their employers, in particular the trend towards “flexible shifts,” where large retailers and hospitality companies treat their workers as widgets. But for those of us who have at least partial influence over how you schedule your time, I want to make a plea: delete all your meetings and start over Jan 1.
What does your calendar look like today? Probably lots of schedule cruft and inefficient combinations of reoccurring meetings that pockmark your days while interrupting productivity. There are also novel calculators meant to help you understand the true cost of a meeting. So blitz the entire thing and restart, replan. What could your new calendar look like?
Fewer standing meetings: Are there 1:1 or team meetings that just aren’t worth their allocated time, have the wrong combination of people attending or are scheduled too frequently? Use this opportunity to change any combination of those defaults. Turn status meetings into updates via email, 60 minute slots into 30, and the like.
Block off working, thinking and self-care time: Some of us (me!) need to see time held back in their calendar for specific type of work or activity. Put this time *in* your calendar versus assuming it will just occur organically in the nooks and crannies alongside scheduled meetings.
Create long stretches of uninterrupted time: For some of us, the work we do often requires flow state and more than just 30 minute windows here and there. Context shifting between activities can often degrade the effectiveness of the “open” slots anyway. Give yourself longer period of time to get the work done. Try to group meetings together on just a day or two a week, or at least in clusters of a morning or afternoon, rather than scattered throughout.
Turn off the video: I remember Ben Thompson said something at the beginning of the pandemic to all of us who were not used to being largely remote workers. It was something to the extent of “those of us who have been doing this for a while know that you keep most conversations to voice, not video.” And it’s so true. Nine months in, I’m now wearing reading glasses when I type to reduce monitor eye strain and making more and more of my 1:1 calls into voice versus video. Not so I can multitask or avoid brushing my hair but so I can concentrate on the content being discussed and not get distracted by the sight and motion of visual medium. Sure there are plenty of times that video is optimal (groups, first impressions, etc) but change your defaults. What if instead of assuming every virtual meeting was going to be video, you changed to voice. You can still screenshare, etc when necessary (I’m suggesting things like Zoom with video off, not just actual phone calls), but reset your expectations for seeing the other person.
So these are four ways that I intend to take back my time for a more productive and happier 2021. How about you? My Xoogler friend John writes about this a lot too.
Notes and More
Wow, 2020 has been a year for sure. I’m sending you all hugs of appreciation just for keeping it together over the last 12 months. And if you’ve been able to go beyond that and be someone else’s rock? Make sure you exhale and take care of yourself too.
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