I like Tony Robbins. I’ve never been to one of his weekends, but he can be pretty inspirational which I value as a small business owner. Part of his morning routine is journaling about what he is grateful for. “You can’t be both grateful, and have a bad attitude,” says Robbins, and I can’t argue. So I’ve added this to my morning routine… so far so good.
I left corporate America a year and a half ago and didn’t even realize then how much time I wasted doing what I’d call “overhead work.”
I’m grateful for my amazingly supportive wife, my 4 kids, my God, and after I got through the personal stuff, I thought about how grateful I am for my job. I realized that I get to focus almost all my time on actually doing my job. I left corporate America a year and a half ago and didn’t even realize then how much time I wasted doing what I’d call “overhead work.” Incessant emails, meetings, and conference calls that have little to do with my mission… what I was accountable for, but took up the majority of my day.
Now I consult corporate America and any meetings or conference calls I attend are required to add value, have desired outcomes and follow efficient structure. I am advising clients to do the same.
Time is our greatest asset. I love what I do, helping organizations and leaders thereof work more efficiently, profitably and collaboratively. Now that I have “seen the light” in the err of my former time-wasting ways, I’ve taken control of my calendar, and discriminate jealously about what I attend or respond to. If a correspondence (emails, conference calls, and meetings) doesn’t efficiently contribute to my mission, I won’t be there.
Tim Ferris discusses these principles in his book The Four Hour Workweek. I don’t plan to get down to a four-hour workweek, but many of the suggestions he makes free us from so many burdens that we unknowingly accept as “the cost (on our time) of doing business.” I’ll take on two examples: email and meetings/conference calls.
Turn your email notifications off, both on your phone and on your lap/desktop. Most executives I work with get over 100 emails daily. That’s over 100 times daily that either their thigh vibrates, or a ribbon flashes across their screen tempting them with the sender’s name and first sentence of the correspondence. Over 100 invasive interruptions daily. How can we get anything done, and why is this ok? If we worked at home and our kids interrupted us 100 times daily, we’d no longer work from home, so why do we allow virtual strangers to place such demands on our time and attention. Ferris calls email “someone else’s claims on our priorities.” No more. I turned all notifications off months ago, and I feel like I got my brain back. My ability to focus has improved significantly. I commit time to email twice daily, and I’m thinking of going down to once. If you need a response in less than 12-24 hours, my device also receives phone calls. It’s amazing!
If I have a request to attend a meeting or conference call, I have started asking for an agenda and desired outcomes. This one has been harder to overcome for me, but I’m working on it. Many meetings exist to inform attendants of something. If that’s the point of your meeting, I can read, and prefer bullet points to paragraphs. If we need to make a decision as a group about something of relevance, that is a good reason for a meeting/ conference call. Let’s do it efficiently, so we can get back to our day jobs… which isn’t sitting in meetings and conference calls.
Before you say your job is special, and this wouldn’t work for you, ask yourself why. Are you funneling too many decisions through yourself and not trusting your team as you should? Do you have to be informed instantly of everything that goes on around you? You may have issues that I can’t help you with.
How we execute these principles will look different to different people. What is important is that we become more jealous of our time, take control of it, and stop assuming that everyone who decides to send you an email or calendar request gets a right to your time.
Written By Jeff Lincoln, Lincoln Consulting