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Productivity & Organizing Myth #10 – We need to be at all those meetings!

Productivity & Organizing Myth #10 – We need to be at all those meetings!
Meeting

Myth: We need to be at all those meetings and events that have made their way onto our calendars.
Reality: We can succeed at work and be happy with a modest number of meetings and activities. Do you say any of these things?

  • I haven’t been home at 6 o’clock in the evening for weeks.
  • We are constantly trying to balance work with kids’ activities with family commitments.
  • I have to schedule a date with my spouse so we have time to talk.
  • If only I had 30 hours in a day.
  • My meetings are back to back all day.
  • Time for myself – ha!

If you are feeling overbooked, you probably are! The solution… manage your meetings!

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In many environments long meetings are held. Often these meetings are two to three times longer than they need to be. And, quite possibly you are needed for only a fraction of the time you’re in the room.

Examination of attendance at some meetings reveals that 25% of people there we necessary to conduct the business at hand. That is to say that 75% of the people there were not necessary and wasting their time. Other meetings the necessity for attendance 50/50 and sometime everyone needs to be there.

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If you feel meeting overload step back and use a critical eye to view your role in them. If you’d like to alter your meeting load consider if any of the following suggestions could free you up.

  • Do you ask for an agenda for the meeting so you’re certain of the scope of the topics fits your involvement?
  • Is there are ways to run the meetings more efficiently?
  • Could someone summarize the meeting for you in person or in a memo in a fraction of the time spent in a meeting?
  • Could you attend just the portion of the meeting that pertains to your role and responsibility?
  • Could the minutes or notes from the meeting serve your need for information?
  • Are the meetings contributing to your success in your position or moving you toward your next position? If not, give it a miss.
  • Is this an enjoyable group of people with good intentions but the topic is not really related to your goals? If so parforce, is it just throwing your day schedule off more than helping it? (particularly applicable for non-job-related meetings and volunteer/community committees).
  • What is the worst that could happen if you don’t attend?

Experiment. Think like the CEO of your career that you are. As CEO everyone wants your time but you only have so much of it. Jack Welch, when the head of GE, would give presenters 8 minutes to make their points then he’d cut them off. Presenters learned to put only their important points out there and to stick to the time schedule. Do you, could you, deliver your important points in just a few minutes? Could you require others in your meetings to be brief and relevant? Could less significant topics be covered offline if they have to be covered at all?

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A very difficult reply to meeting invites is, “No.” So, try softer versions such as, “No Thanks for thinking of me though.” “I would like to but I have other commitments.” “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t’ contribute to the meeting because I don’t have the expertise and time to give it fair attention. I, however, think that TJ might be able to help you.”

It’s your time, protect it!

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Previous Myths:

Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. She’s visited South & Central America, Europe, Asia, ‘Down Under” and traveled across North America. Susan writes at productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity programs & tips to groups. The most popular presentation topic today is, How to Get Ready for the Busy Season.

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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