The HeadScratcher Post Archive
February  2012
Two ideas for Massive Productivity Gains
       February 2012 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 77

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Two ideas for Massive Productivity Gains

One of the great benefits of just a little Critical Thinking is often a massive productivity gain. Here are two areas where you can spend just 5 or 10 minutes and achieve these gains; Meetings and Emails.

Meetings: In addition to the "set an agenda" rule, here are a few ideas that can make meetings massively more productive, resulting in both the elimination of follow-up meetings and shorter meetings, often to half the time.

Ask these questions before you send out an invite to a meeting:

  • What is the desired objective and outcome of the meeting I'm about to call? Can I achieve this without calling a meeting? If not, why not?
  • Who is necessary for the meeting, and why?
  • What is each person's role in the meeting, i.e. what do you expect them to contribute?
  • What preparation work should the meeting attendees do before the meeting?
  • What preparation work should I do before the meeting (and set a time on your calendar to do that prep work !)

When you send out the meeting notice, send out your answers to the above questions.

Ask these questions when you receive an invite to a meeting:

  • Why am I invited to this meeting, i.e. what is expected of me?
  • What preparation work should I do?
  • Is there a desired objective and outcome for the meeting?

Many of us have several if not numerous meetings per week (some per day). If you and your organization just spend a few moments answering these question prior to meetings, you'll save hours and hours per week.

Emails: In addition to being brief, ask these questions and take these actions.

Before you send an email, ask:

  • Is the content of the email Clear? Can you say this with fewer words? Are the words you use completely unambiguous, i.e no room for misinterpreting the meaning?
  • Who is on the "To:", "cc:" and "bcc" lines and is it really necessary for them to received this email.
  • When the person, or persons, on the "To:" line get the email, will they know why they are on the "To:" line and what action you are requesting of them?
  • Who is being cc'd and why? Is this an FYI? Do you want them to follow up? Is there some action for them? Will they know by reading the email?
  • When do you require / expect a response, if at all? If you don't get a response by that time, what action will you take?

When you receive an email, ask:

  • Why am I getting this email? Am I being asked to do something? Is this an FYI? Am I being asked to follow-up to see if something will be done?
  • If I'm on the To: line, who else is, and is it clear who is supposed to do what?
  • Am I clear about the content of the email and is it possible I could be misinterpreting it? Is there a need to clarify anything?

Before you respond to an email you receive, ask:

  • Should I respond to the sender, reply all, or reply to some; why?
  • What is the purpose of your reply, i.e. are you trying to clarify something, correct something, ask a relevant question, have a discussion, make a suggestion?
  • Are the words you use in your reply clear and unambiguous?

The Takeaway: Imagine how much time you can save if you didn't have to go to a meeting that wasn't necessary, or how productive a meeting could be if people knew why they were there and were prepared. Consider how much more efficient emails could be if you just asked a few questions or how quickly you could get through emails if they were clear? Of course, not everyone will do this, and you'll forget or not have time to do it always, but just try it a few times .. you'll be impressed by the outcome and maybe "think critically" a little more.

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