A time management & productivity email to my team

by oneafrikan on September 7, 2012

Sent today:

** Pls read in full and confirm you’ve understood everything by COP today. I’m going to keep as short & sweet as possible ;-) **
*** If you’re in the habit of reading the top 3 lines of an email, this is not the email to do it ***
The next 4 months are massively important, I can’t overstate that more.
As such, I’m going to ask that everyone starts shifting their mindset from 2nd to 3rd gear – the short term result of which will be a £6m p/a company that is profitable. From scratch.
This is going to mean that each and every one of us steps up to the plate and increases work output, productivity and communication.
We’ve reached the end of a hiring spree now, so this is best time to get this comm out (and include the new folks on the way).
Some points I want to make:
You’ve all been hired because you’re smart & motivated, and I’d have no problem introducing you to my parents ;-)
In some way, each of us is a positive asset to Wedo – don’t forget this, no matter how tough the days may get, because they will get tougher.
I’m going to be pushing hard for everyone to move from being reactive, to being proactive. The results will be astonishing.
From now on, I’m going to be clearing time for myself so that I can move back to being a producer, think about the future, sell our company vision to outsiders, and be creative again.

As such, I’m going to ask that you respect the following guidelines:
  1. Don’t come to my desk at any time and ask if I have a minute, because the answer will be no.
  2. Don’t send me Skype messages where you’re looking for an answer to something, because I’m trying to wean myself from Skype.
  3. Don’t send long emails; rather talk in person.
  4. Unless urgent, hold all thoughts, ideas, issues or (nonurgent) concerns until we get to meet & talk in person.
    I’ll start adding weekly times into the calendar where we’ll do this.
    My best advice here is to learn the difference between urgent & important; how to keep & maintain lists (if you don’t already), and fast.
    Good resources are below. I love this stuff, and am a student of it, so happy to discuss with anyone.
  5. If it is urgent, then pls schedule time with me to talk in person, don’t send emails about the issue unless it is background material.
    When you do schedule something, make sure there is an agenda, make sure you’re organised, and make sure you’re able to keep things to the point and fast. I’m going to push back strongly if not.
  6. If your needs can’t be met by the weekly meet above, I will make myself available for ad-hoc conversations daily, in the 30 mins before and after lunch.
    Put something in the calendar if you want to do this, so I know ahead of time. Pls be mindful of time, and keep it below 10 mins.
    Again, if the issues brought up can wait, I’m going to push back strongly.
  7. I have an Evernote for pretty much everyone in the team, and I’ll be using this to keep track of everything important to me, with respect to that person.  Suggest you do the same.
  8. My (virtual) door is always open; I’m happy to have breakfast, lunch & dinner with people so we can chat in depth ==> but I am trying to work smarter & with the same intensity, so I reserve the right to adapt & change the above ;-)
Most importantly, I would urge each person to take the guidelines above and think about how you can respect your colleagues & team time so that we can all get stuff done. We have a lot to do.
I’m going to start pushing & encouraging everyone to make decisions within the realm of common sense, without the need for affirmation – the RASCI doc will outline boundaries for this, so watch out for that soon.

In general, I’m also going to start implementing stuff to do the following:
  1. measure everyone’s performance
  2. make us more effective
  3. reduce disruptions
  4. improve communications
  5. respect each others time
  6. reduce reliance on Skype whilst increasing inter-team updates and comms
  7. better meeting prep & agenda
  8. weekly team meetings to discuss problems / ideas
  9. better internal feedback loops
  10. better external feedback loops
  11. more trust, more responsibility
In general, I expect that everyone starts doing the following if not already:
  1. create and manage lists to prioritise workload
  2. plan calendar each day to be proactive instead of reactive
  3. keeping track of things you want to discuss with your team leader, or myself
As such, I’m going to start spending time each day with different people in each team, to better understand problems and issues, so that I can help.
During that time, I’m also going to ask to see the above lists, your calendar, your prioritisation, your 6 things, etc, and the issues you want to discuss.
If you don’t have that the first time, I’ll ask you to do it.
If you haven’t done it by the 3rd time, I’ll start asking why we’re working together.

For the folks that think they are in largely reactive roles (ie, customer service team, finance team):
Every person should still be planning in some proactive tasks that can be done each day; these are things that move the company forward or improve the company or your work.
Plan time to improve skills, performance, workflow, and organisation for you and your team or the company.
It’s understood that people in reactive roles will have less time to be proactive, but I won’t accept there is no time.

Some general principles for better time management:
  1. touch it once:
    if you touch it, take action
    use descriptive subjects in emails
    when the subject of an email changes, the subject line also changes
    do not use email alerts
    do not use Dropbox alerts
    do not use skype alerts
    if you spend 15 mins per day revisiting emails, you will waste 97 hours per year where no action is taken == 6 weeks of wasted time
  2. make lists:
    a project is something with more than one action
    a project should be a list
    complete 6 things a day; your day should plan these 6 things
    only move onto the next 6 things, when the first 6 are done
  3. plan how much time you will allocate to a task:
    if your 6 things can’t fit into the day, then split it up into smaller chunks so you can better manage
    everything can be broken down into smaller chunks
    a project is not an action, it’s the sum of several steps
  4. plan your day, each day:
    plan your 6 things into your day; stick to the plan; use lists for overflow
    plan buffer time
  5. prioritise:
    put most important tasks first
    20% effort brings 80% results in almost all circumstances
    focus all your intensity, effort and concentration on the 20%
  6. ask yourself: “will it hurt me to throw this away? / will this hurt me, the team or the company if I don’t do this? / is this something that will move us all forward?”:
    you need less than you think you do, and even less is important = don’t hoard and clutter for the sake of it
    “delete” is as important as “archive”
    gmail search is better than labelling
    filesystem search is generally not as reliable as using folders ;-)
Assorted resources:
RASCI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_assignment_matrix
covey quadrants / urgent vs important: http://www.eitanbirshan.com/blog/time-management-covey%E2%80%99s-4-quadrants/
pickle jar theory: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/pickle/
GTD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done
Kaizen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen
Web based tools for keeping lists (search for their name):
Asana, Basecamp, Wunderlist, google docs, Things, Remember The Milk, or just search for “gtd task list”

Great note taking tool for windows / mac / web:
Most importantly, let’s stay classy ;-)

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