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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 September 10, 2019

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

Effective Prioritization

There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

My point is:

The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

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Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

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