chats to productivity author Dermot Crowley
, writer of the new book Smart Work
, about the importance of handling meetings, weekly planning, and how people can get productivity wrong.
LDP: What’s the significance of meetings to effective and efficient outcomes, and what’s a smart way to go about handling meetings?
DC: I believe that more meetings does not necessarily lead to achieving better outcomes. In fact, I believe most organisations need to apply the 3 F’s to meetings: fewer, faster and focused. We need fewer meetings so we can have time to get other stuff done. Meetings can be more effective if scheduled for less than the obligatory hour. Parkinson’s law suggests that the work will always expend to fill the time available. Shorter meetings mean more focus. Lastly, meetings should be focused collaborations that leverage everyone’s time, not unplanned and unfocused wastes of time.
LDP: Why is weekly planning the key to sustained productivity?
DC: Without a regular planning rhythm in place, there is a risk that we end up working more reactively than necessary. People who are too busy to stop and plan their week will end up living a week by default, rather than a week by design. Weekly planning is an opportunity to pause, look back, get up to date, look forward, get organised and reconnect with the big picture.
LDP: How can you realise outcomes without losing your mind?
DC: Ben Hunt-Davis won a gold medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a part of a rowing team. His book, Will it make the boat go faster?
talks about the simple question the team asked themselves about every activity leading up to the Olympics. This gets to the heart of achieving outcomes without losing your mind. Get clear about your goals, make them visible, review them often and question every activity you do in this light.
LDP: What are ways you can get productivity wrong?
DC: The key ones are:
LDP: What’s your advice to L&D professionals who want to foster a productive workforce?
- Too many tools – using multiple systems to organise priorities, rather than one centralised system to manage both meetings and tasks.
- Using your Inbox as a to-do list and a filing system - it is only designed to receive emails, just like a post box.
- Not taking time out to plan – We are too busy to plan. Now that is a false economy.
DC: A productive workforce needs to be led. Senior management need to model good productivity behaviours and not be a part of the problem. That means that productivity needs to be seen as a leadership issue. Many organisations are extremely reactive, and everything is urgent. Leadership needs to dial down the urgency if they want the workforce to work in a proactive manner on the right work. L&D should drive initiatives and programs that will not only improve the personal productivity of workers, but to enable a culture of productive collaboration. How we meet, communicate and collaborate is critical to sustained productivity.
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