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Kill Meetings to Get More Done

Kill Meetings to Get More Done

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class="bigphoto">Meeting

You’ve got your list of things you want to accomplish for today, and yet, after a series of meetings that you had to go to throughout the day, none of the things on your list got done.

That’s because meetings are almost always a huge drain on your time, and should be killed on sight.

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Think about the last few meetings you attended — did you sit through them wishing you were somewhere else, or finish the meeting wondering what the point of the meeting was, or worse yet, feel that the same thing could have been accomplished through a simple email? Meetings are time hogs, and often leave you wishing you could get that time back.

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Is it possible to have a productive meeting? Sure, but it’s rare. A productive meeting would be if ideas could be communicated and agreed upon faster than through phones or email, not longer. A productive meeting would have a clearly stated purpose, be as short as possible, and have an outcome with assigned tasks to be completed after the meeting. In all the organizations I’ve worked for or been involved with, those meetings are truly rare — if they even exist.

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Instead, kill the meetings in your life, and get tons more done. Here’s how:

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  • Don’t hold meetings. If you’re the boss, or you’re in charge of scheduling meetings, you have the authority to cancel them. Try going one day without them. Instead, have the same purposes be accomplished through email. Do you have a meeting where people give you progress reports? Have them email you a progress report daily, at a specified time each day, and have your assistant collect them compile an overall daily report for you. A meeting at a glance.
  • Communicate through email, phone, then person-to-person. Make email your default communication mode. If someone wants to set up a meeting, ask them to email you with their questions instead. If that’s not good enough, agree to talk on the phone about it. As a last resort, agree to a 5-minute face-to-face, standing up. Don’t agree to coffee or lunch — most of the time, you’re just chit chatting. And when you do talk on the phone or in person, get to the point quickly — eliminate the preliminary friendly chatting. Just dive right in: OK, what needs to be done here? What are we trying to accomplish? What tasks will be done by whom? And then you’re done.
  • Beg off. If you’re not the boss, you might not control whether meetings are held or not. In that case, ask to skip it. Say that you’ve got an urgent project on deadline, and you won’t be able to make the meeting. If your boss tries to insist that you make it, ask if he or she would like to grant you an extension on your project.
  • Accomplish the agenda. Before the meeting, ask for a copy of the agenda. Then accomplish whatever’s on the agenda before the meeting even takes place. For example, if the meeting is to discuss a report, annotate the report thoroughly with your comments, and put your recommended actions at the bottom. Email that to your boss, and say that you’ve already done what’s required, so you can work on another project instead. Eliminate the need for you to be at the meeting.
  • The Puppydog Technique. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Workweek, suggests that you use the Puppydog sales technique to get out of meetings. Basically, this technique was originally used by pet shops to make a sale — if the customer is wavering, tell them to just take home the puppy and give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out, they can bring the puppy back. Many people will agree to this little trial — and they rarely bring the puppy back. Ask your boss if you can skip the meeting, just for today, as you need to finish something urgent. Just this once is hard to turn down. Eventually, your boss will realize that you don’t need to go to the meeting and that you’re more productive if you don’t.
  • Work from home. Convince your boss to let you work from home, and you can skip all meetings. This, of course, is ideal. Just make sure you’re more productive at home than at the office.
  • Get stuff done. If you are able to skip a meeting, actually get stuff done — important stuff. Be 10 times as productive as the people who went to the meeting.
  • Show proof. When the boss comes out of the meeting you skipped, turn in that big report or project. Show that you were super productive without the meeting — with cold, hard proof. Do this enough times, and you will impress your boss and the unproductive meeting will be a distant memory.

More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

The Gentle Art of Saying No How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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