The topic of asynchronous communication has gained great momentum through the pandemic. The office settings did not help us acknowledge the amount of time we spent in meetings , but through remote working it has become surfaced as a dominant pain that we are in meetings all the time! Terms like focus time , personal hour etc. have gained traction and everybody is trying to find space between blurry lines of work and home. It seems to be a never ending battle.
Personally for me I have not been able to realize the significance of focus time , as for decades we operated with out , going around doing our job. I think that we have a set of things to do , run and drive outcomes and most of the job profiles will not allow for the concepts of focus time to be successful although analytics and software implements will make a recommendation for same. It also confuses other people who want to work , discuss and brainstorm , whether I should reach out or not!
For me following strategy works best
- Being an early riser , I tend to read and clear my Inbox before starting my regular days
- Use the concept of urgent and important to determine how to create short term focus [ needs to answered within a day ] versus [ week ] or [ month ] . Beyond that it does not require attention now
- I try to gamify time management and use asynchronous methods of guiding through my workloads by keeping lean focus area list , leverage negotiation and delegation to increase greater span of work and rest goes to backlog
- Write first culture is important to drive thought process and discussion. Without writing we can never move forward and will always rely on verbal communication which is meeting
- Using tools effectively to drive To-Do lists and putting specific blocks on calendar to carry out desired tasks.
- Maintain to-do list at personal level , group level and 1-1 level to drive agenda at different velocity and focus
- Create focused chat groups for short term goals and encourage no-meetings but asynchronous communication
- I re-purpose meeting to cover additional agenda and avoid another meeting
- Strengthen decision making . It seems that we try to be risk averse and find more people to help take decision because we are either not breaking the problem to manageable levels or are too weary to take a call and move forward.
Above are some of practical everyday ways of managing . Having said that there is no perfect answer and you would still have bad days. In order to focus continue to keep this problem at the core of efficient working so that everybody is reminded not to be pulled into a meeting without a purpose and if pulled should have exit path with some action items [ of which one should be not to have another meeting ]
I have been away from my blog for too long. Not a good sign considering time management is very important to me and try to live by it!! I am trying to reboot myself and again attempting to find time to develop my passion for writing on what I observe in my perosnal as well professional life.
Anyway , coming back to my comeback post .. which should have been a daily writing task has ended being a milestone !(see I already labelled it as “comeback” post).
Very often in our professional life we quickly slip into mode of achieving things that are regular in nature and could have been taken care through timely checks , follow up , keeping tab on progress or by giving it equal importance as other big tickets things on our todo list. If this happens very regularly , then we can fall into trap of under achievement thinking that we accomplished alot because we are putting more effort giving us perception that we are working hard towards our goal but reality is that we are playing catch-up game and are still far from our real milestones.
Those who would have attended b-school might find this easy to relate , because this happens everytime when you work on assignments. Although it would have been defined weeks back in time , we postpone it stating it is going to take ‘x’hours & we still have time. Then comes the real milestone date which pushes you to start doing your daily tasks , only to realise that there was more details to the devil than perceived!!
But why worry about this aspect… why am I being so picky..when ultimately the job is done?
It is hard to quantify this aspect but couple of points are worth considering….
1. Quality may get impacted
2. Finer details are ignored because you never got an opportunity to reach that point
3. We don’t achieve much beyond the actual milestone
Managers should have eye for such whirlpools and make effort to avoid them. They should also educate their subordinates as well peers to differentiate between daily tasks versus milestone. Having this approach does not mean that you are not appreciative about the hardwork people put but being judicious in appreciating the real achievement versus patting back for a task that could have been regular under the radar activity if one would timed it and made constant progress as opposed to it gaining sudden importance due to visible hardwork!!
It’s been time since I wrote something and much is attributed to my own inability to manage as well as do things which I would love to do. This post is a reflection of a tool which can help all of us (including me) to remain focused. Nothing which I invented but again as I said earlier, my posts are more about what I learn/observe or get as guidance from my peers in industry. The tool carries a little treatment from principles of mathematics and how I wonder that this subject finds its way in almost everything which we do!!
Ever thought of prioritizing your tasks and making an effort to remain on-course to complete what you aimed for? We all start our day with an activity list. Some make it in form of notes whilst other would end with making a mind map of it but everybody does have a loose sense of what they are going to do. If you were to survey people and ask them what percentage of activity they really got accomplished, I am sure with certain level of confidence that it would not be a very great percentage to be pleased about personally.
We may start our day by reaching office, engage ourselves with some kind of beverage (non-alcoholic!!) and look at our list of activities. One gets to start to try and accomplish what he embarked upon just to be interrupted by an urgent work which his / her boss handed over just now and needs by noon before lunch!!! And yes this is the start of the end of your prioritization because now you have something which did not find place when you actually planned your day.
It is hard to make somebody visualize this, so I will draw a rough picture of what I am about to explain:
The tool itself is very simple treatment of scatter chart and does not much explain once drawn, so I would not spend time explain what is shown above but would recommend a fun exercise to graph your activity chart on this matrix and see how it helps you to remain focused by clustering similar activities together in quadrants of urgent v/s important. When you see yourself doing this against a timeline chart it allows you derive goals, which can span from being daily to whatever time horizon you wished for.
One would argue how this can stem the sudden inclusion of tasks that disturb our schedule? , well the beauty of this is that it shows how much you deviate and how long you keep deviating by certain occurrence of tasks that necessarily when you analyze may not always turn out to be for example hitting the first quadrant right away. We generally tend to have impulsive reaction to what we get on ad-hoc basis and don’t process information is usual manner considering either time paucity or in general inability to either say “No” or setting right expectation about when we would be able to respect that activity with our time. We have tendency to forget that our time box is only as much that quadrant will map out or show, and there is no concept of infinity applied to it!!! , thus leading to stretched hours and undue stress to complete our work. In the end we end up having what we call competing priorities with no rules. The ability to think through in the manner explained above may help us provide some ground rules on how to make our priorities compete for the one common resource “Our Time”.