Friday, May 08, 2009

In Search of Productivity

I recently talked to Mic Berman. She spoke of the new time - "and 30 minutes is the new 60." She got this from Mike Lee (Chief Strategy Officer) at Rogers.

This got me thinking. Productivity would go up in some cases if I thought in terms of smaller time blocks. So, as an experiment, I set out my time blocks in 20 minute increments instead of 30. I have used a similar technique in the past by scheduling meetings back to back (that stops them from going overtime).

Productivity improved on some things. On others though, it declined primarily because I did not complete the task and there is always an overhead with starting a new task. I also found that I use the breathing time between tasks for routine things like email.

So I guess the best solution is still the old fashioned "know your priorities" and you spend the appropriate amount of time on the appropriate things.

I had an interview with Shelley McQuade posted on her Sales Fertilizer Blog.


At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Alex Revai said...

Increasing productivity, by squeezing "more" into less time, may work as a mathematical equation, but not in reality. If anything, we should plan time-blocks with a lot more reality. One of the most common mistakes in time management is the underestimating of the time (period) a task really takes. Another mistake is planning back-to-back time blocks.

So, let's, indeed, stick with the priorities, leave adequate time for their completion and...let's give ourselves a breather to think...and for interruptions..and other realities.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Managers said...

It's true, increasing productivity is probably the best managerial solution, but in reality is not so easy to do. It takes time for people to stick with the priorities!

At 10:16 AM, Blogger dslatter said...

Jim, I guess this stratgey of breaking up meetings into 20 minute increments is similar to the Twitter 140 character limit. Say what you need to say and get to the point. This would be a real challenge to the folks that go to meetings just so they can be heard, even if they have nothing meaningful to say:)

Personally I hate to go to meetings when there is no set agenda or expected outcomes. Sadly it happens way too often.

At 3:58 AM, Anonymous Jørgen Sundgot said...

@dslatter - I fully agree. The challenge would be to keep things to the bare essentials, which either requires an unusual combination of outcome-oriented individuals to be present, or a very strong leader whom is well-respected within the group.

On a related note, I've been experimenting with so-called interval meetings which have an unusually high ratio of break time towards work time - ie 10 to 20 minutes, respectively. Each session then starts with a clearly defined outcome, and participants are assigned light tasks to discuss among themselves during breaks.

Compressing time in this manner works surprisingly well, as the "Twitter effect" makes people cut the crap whereas the breaks allow them to throttle back and recharge for the next work session even though they stay on topic in an informal manner.

Unsurprisingly, it's particularly transformative in larger organizations which are heavily reliant on systems and structure.


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