Double Your Productivity

Since the start of the year, I’ve been tracking my every work activity using an app called Toggl. What surprised me was the amount of time I spent on just two activities: email and internal meetings; neither of which are particularly value-added or productive. The problem with an email habit is that I have the itch to check every 10–15mins, which interrupts my flow, and time is needed to gather momentum again on any piece of work. Moreover, my inbox is a list of other people’s priorities, not mine [1]. So to overcome this, I’ve introduced a new system where I only check emails three times a day — once on the train to work, another after lunch and finally at the end of the day [2]. It’s amazing what a difference that makes. And the world hasn’t ended! I still have my job, my productivity has improved and I’m happier.

The more difficult one to tackle is internal meetings. They are energy sapping, nothing gets achieved and all the important stuff gets decided outside of them. Ironically, we are more than happy to sit for an hour or two in a darkened room watching a film, than sit in internal meetings, despite such meetings being interactive and directly impacting our lives.

Why is this? The answer is conflict. Movies show conflict, which is exciting. Internal meetings lack that, and so are boring. When I say conflict, it need not be destructive. What should happen in meetings is that people should air their opinions, debate and be passionate. In that way, everyone understands all the angles, and everyone’s voice is heard. Without that, decisions are made without complete information, people sabotage the decision-makers’ grand strategies as they weren’t heard and organizations become dysfunctional [3]. My goal is to transform my internal meetings so they become more exciting than the movies.

[1] “Time Management Ninja”, Craig Jarrow

[2] “The 4-Hour Work Week”, Tim Ferris

[3] “The Five Dysfunctions of a team: A Leadership Fable”, Patrick Lencioni

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Originally published at bilalhafeez.com on June 1, 2015.