If you have ever downloaded any tools or other resources on our site, you know that we usually ask you about your Biggest Business Challenge in our forms. In response to your feedback, we are featuring a blog series on your biggest business challenges! This post is a response to the challenge “time."
Even the experts agree. “Time is an organization’s scarcest - and most often squandered - resource,” according to an HBR article by Michael Mankins, Chris Brahm, and Gregory Caimi. While most companies closely monitor how they spend their money, very few pay attention to how they spend their time. As a result, many executives spend hours doing things they consider to be an ineffective use of their time - attending meetings that go nowhere, answering never-ending emails, working on initiatives that don’t seem to matter.
No wonder many executives work long days, sacrificing personal time with family and friends, often feeling that they aren’t accomplishing much in that time. While there are lots of tips and tools to improve personal time management, many of the great time wasters in our days are products of how our companies operate rather than personal decisions about how we spend our time.
Even if you personally commit to productivity practices like only checking emails at certain times or only scheduling meetings that last thirty minutes instead of an hour, if the rest of your organization only functions when you respond to their emails and you still have commitments with the rest of your teams for regular two hour status update meetings, then you won’t be very successful in your endeavors. To really take back your time and ensure that your company is not wasting valuable resources, you probably need to address some organization-wide practices.
Here are some common Organizational Time Thieves:
- Excessive emails: Mankins, Brahm, and Caimi site a Bain & Company study that found that many executives are receiving 200+ emails each day. When you add in the instant messages and other applications, execs are often spending more than one whole day out of each week just dealing with electronic communications.
- Unproductive meetings: According to the study, “On average, senior executives devote more than two days every week to meetings involving three or more coworkers, and 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings.” Internal meetings can be costly in that they take time away from customer-facing interactions.
- Ineffective collaboration: The study found that most interaction is within the same department, contributing to silos, and focused more on sharing status updates than on brainstorming solutions.
- Dysfunctional Meeting Behavior: Most executives multitask during meetings (checking emails), or even double book more than one meeting at a time. This wasted meeting time causes more meetings to be scheduled to get the actual work done, which only contributes to the overall problem.
- Lack of Control and Consequences: Unlike the budgets that most companies have to stick to when spending money, few organizations have rules around the how to request coworkers’ time. Often you just send a meeting request or convene a task force without having to ask permission or think through the purpose and whether or not it is worth the organization’s resources. In addition, while executives rate most meetings they attend as “ineffective,” there are usually no consequences for unproductive meeting time.
- “Initiative creep” or too many new projects: Many companies continue adding new projects or initiatives as they crop up as long as they seem reasonable at the time. The problem with this is that eventually the number of initiatives going on simultaneously becomes unmanageable.
If any of these sound familiar, you are not alone. Take back your time!
Here are 6 ways that Rhythm can help you reclaim the valuable (and expensive) resource of time in your organization:
- Rather than relying on endless email communication threads to get your work done, wouldn’t it be great if you could collaborate with your team on specific priorities or strategic discussions in one place, and see the whole thread in context (and know exactly where to look for it if you need to reference it again)? That’s what Rhythm’s collaboration features allow clients to do.
- Only schedule meetings that have a clear agenda and stated purpose. In the Other Meetings sections of our Rhythm software platform, we have a specific place for you to record the “Successful if” for each meeting. For each meeting you organize, begin with the end in mind by recording what outcome will make it a successful meeting. You can also record agendas, attachments, notes, and any follow up Action Items to ensure that the meeting results in a clear path forward and achieves your goals.
- In addition to no clear purpose, lack of advanced preparation is one more reason the HBR article cites for ineffective meetings. Using Rhythm to prepare for your weekly meetings will ensure that you have done all the necessary steps in advance so that your team can spend the meeting time together working on solutions and having the right discussions rather than wasting this precious time. When meetings are engaging and effective, executives are less likely to bail for another meeting or mentally check out to answer emails.
- Rhythm can also help you break down departmental silos and foster true collaboration that is focused on solving problems rather than simply conveying information. The dashboards you set up for everyone to see eliminate the need for meetings to communicate status updates on priorities and metrics, and Rhythm’s collaboration features are perfect for effective cross-departmental communication.
- Committing to a Plan Rhythm is the best way to curb “initiative creep” and ensure that the team stays focused on executing the most important priorities necessary to achieve the long-term strategy of the company. The annual and quarterly planning agendas we recommend for our clients specifically carve out time to look at potential opportunities and initiatives and discuss, debate, and agree on only the top 3-5 to focus on at a time.
- If you are serious about cutting out wasted time, Mankins, Brahm, and Caimi suggest tracking variables that impact productivity such as meeting time, meeting attendance, and email volume. If you want to establish a baseline measurement for these potential time wasters and put some policies in place to curb them, you can record them in Rhythm on your KPI dashboard to monitor the time you’re spending on each of these each week.
Now that you’re ready to manage your organization’s time more effectively, start making those weekend plans and tell your kids you’ll be home for dinner!
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images