84. Get More Done in Less Time

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Smooth Operator/Podcast/84. Get More Done in Less Time

84. Get More Done in Less Time


Have you ever sat back and wondered where the whole day went?

We strive to be as productive as possible, but it seems like regularly we’re left looking at a long list of remaining tasks at the end of the day.

This can be explained…

Parkinson's Law is the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. This may mean you take longer than necessary to complete a task or you procrastinate and complete the task right before the due date.

When you learn to master Parkinson’s Law for yourself and your team, you’ll find more than enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

And a whole lot more satisfaction with your work.

Learn more at https://www.adamliette.com

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What's going on smooth operators hope you're having a good start to the week. And thank you so much for joining me today. And as we're going to dive into something that is not only useful from the team leading perspective, but also from the personal one, this is one that's near and dear to my heart, because it's one I've fallen guilty and have, you know, experienced the positive and negative effects of in my professional and personal life. And that's Parkinson's Law. So if you haven't heard of Parkinson's Law, it's the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. This may mean you take longer than necessary to complete a task, or you procrastinate and complete the task, right before the due date. So particularly, that first part is what I've noticed, not only in myself, but in teams I lead, it takes so much longer to complete a task than we ever thought was possible. And this can happen in all sorts of different areas of the business. But in particular, we see this with projects, we definitely see this with recurring tasks. So tasks that take place on a regular every week or every month as scheduled. It's just part of the routine of running the business as a recurring task.

But we also see it in more man, this is where leadership, you look at yourself in the mirror here. I really see this in planning, where a plan will never quite seem to come together. It'll remain in planning mode. Have you ever noticed that? We're never good at like making that pivot and saying, All right, well, what now? Get out of planning mode. And make a deadline for that. And finally, man, this is a tough one. We see it in meetings. You think, Adam, what are you talking about? Have you ever noticed? If you set up a meeting to take an hour and you put it on the calendar for an hour, 99 times out of 100? It will take an hour? Because that's the time you gave it? Have you ever thought about setting up a meeting and deliberately giving it less time? What would happen if you had a planned 15 minute meeting? And you deliberately said this is 15 minutes, we're in and out? How much do you think you will get done in 15 minutes versus that full hour? How much less would Bob the team member that likes to go on tangents and get away from the task at hand? How much less would he do that? And how much less would anyone else on the call tolerate it because they're all looking at the time knowing that we got to get done. Try it on for size.

Try that one on. So there's a couple reasons that this happens. From my perspective, just working with team members over the years. And myself. The first one is that idea of just procrastinating and waiting on doing something. We all have the tasks that we don't want to do. We know that. And so we put it aside, knowing that we have to later to finish it. There's also distraction where we're working on something and we get distracted by something else. We get a Slack message that we think needs our attention right now. And because we kind of don't want to be doing that task anyway. We allow ourselves to be distracted, allow ourselves to be pulled away. Then, of course is general time wasting. I mean that's just part of the human condition. anyone tells you that they're productive 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sorry, you're not and that's okay. Don't be too hard on yourself over that. But just acknowledge that time wasting is something that happens if either there's two more and both are kind of equally annoying. The first is is shiny objects where we're working on something and we think of something bigger, think of something different. We're no longer within the scope of what we're working on. But we get distracted by a shiny object. That is the one ladies and gentlemen, I'm the most guilty of because I'll be working on a project.

And I'll start to see the second third order effects are start to see the next level. And I need to constantly remind myself to stay in the moment to get the task done. Because a done task better than a not done task. And finally, perfectionism, feeling like something is never quite right, never quite ready. Well, if you wait for something to be ready, it will never be ready, it will never be perfect, ever, you're always going to find ways to pick it apart. But just remember, your 8020 principle at this time, does better than not done, right? So there's ways we know that we can do this for ourselves, we can battle Parkinson's Law, I want to kind of switch flip the script here and really focus on how we can do it for our team. Our team is looking to us to lead. And there's ways that we can combat this without, you know, having to write everyone's rails and having to feel like we're the bad guys, you know, constantly looking over everyone's shoulder, we want to stay out of micromanagement, right? Who wants to be a micromanager, you're listening to the wrong show. We don't want to be micromanagers we want to be leaders. So I mentioned the first overcome ways to overcome this, which is to limit your time in meetings, be super deliberate about this.

And maybe as an aside, like take a stopwatch to a meeting, don't tell people you're doing the stopwatch. But every time the meeting goes off rails or isn't focused, stop the time, see how much time that meeting actually takes. So you have a baseline to work from. Because you may be giving that meeting an hour and only need to half an hour only needs 20 minutes. whatever time it actually needs. Give it that time, but start with the baseline. So another way we can do this from the team perspective, again, is to use time trackers. So Asana is the project management tool I use with my team members, we also use Time Doctor that tracks our payroll, it makes it nice and neat to do payout at the end of the week. Well asana and Time Doctor have an integration, where you can be working on a task within Asana, and you hit this little button for Time Doctor, it'll switch your task in Time Doctor. And then at the end of a period, say the end of a month, or I really don't recommend a weekly because there's just too little data, but monthly or quarterly, you can pull those time reports and see where the time is actually going. That will allow you to make you know a better estimate of what time is actually required. And if you have to purposely limit it. I do try to be really, really firm about deadlines. And from your side, you need to be diligent about deadlines to deadlines are made for a reason they really need to be met. And how are you establishing those deadlines.

That's really where agency comes in. I've talked a lot about agency on this podcast and giving your team the ability to influence when things are done or how things are done, gives them agency even if you are actually controlling it, you know that perception of control. It's an art form unto itself to give someone that perception of control and we're steering things in the direction we want them. We can definitely do this with deadlines. And when they have agency in there, well, that makes a big difference. And with deadlines, we do have to battle procrastination, don't we? That's why I like to use check ins. I mentioned before on this podcast with my team, I do a daily update daily. I don't tend to like to do task management daily. Because honestly, I don't want to think about that. I want to assign my team and sprints where they have their tasks for the week. That's what they're expected to get done the order that they do and I do not care that's up for them to manage. I give them agency over their own day to day management. But I like to use check in so on the daily update, where I'm asking, Hey, how are things looking on this project or that project? By this time, we should be ready to do X, Y or Z right? We can do this in a way that's not are really pushy. It's not wishy washy, either. It's just checking for status check. That's all it's doing. And we can definitely do this in a way that doesn't feel like we're looking over their shoulder. But rather, we're doing it out of the fact that that's our responsibility. So make sure everything's moving forward. And if they need support, please let us know.

See, I just flipped the script on that. I did say, hey, I need an update on how we're doing. Say, Hey, I just want to check in on this project. How are things going, we can let me know if we need to shift some more assets that way.

Please, let me know now. So I can make those accommodations. See how the framing of that so much different. Finally, I am enamored with the idea of creating routines with my subordinates. So sitting down with your, with your direct hires, your direct reports, and actually helping them create their daily sprint. What are the daily and weekly tasks that they do? Let's get them organized in a project that's just for them. So they know what they're doing every day. They're working from that they have agency because they helped you create it. And now when they look at that task lists, they know they have to get through it, they have a lot of time to get through it. Oh, my goodness, look how much of a difference that makes. How much time wasted you think is gonna go on here. How much procrastination do you think is going to go on, they know they have a job to do. And they helped create that routine. So much to be said about that. And from my own side, I encourage this with my team, as well. And I do this as part of my, you know, my duties as a leader on the on the team, I will, you know, occasionally give my team tips on things that are working for me. And I'm particularly enamored with using my phone alarm to set a 15 minute timer and work on a hard project in that 15 minute sprint, we can do so much in 15 minutes, if we only give ourselves 50 minutes. And I then teach my my team members that I let them know that little trick and any little productivity trick that you pick up, or that you find gives you energy you hired these people based on a cultural fit.

Don't you think that some things that work for you may work for them. It's all about openness, it's about, you know, creating that culture of sharing your team members, they may not adapt what you take, and what you deliver in kind of a hip pocket training. But they certainly respect you for it. And some might just adopt that. You never know at the minimum, they're going to respect you because you were so open about it. And this is I won't pretend that anything in this is a one stop shop will solve Parkinson's Law, Parkinson's Law will be with us, you will always be with us. And I think understanding that is is really helpful. You will always have this law to wrestle with. But how are you going to wrestle with it, you're never going to win every time. But you increase your chances through some of these structures through some of these leadership mechanisms to combat it as much as we can, so that we can slowly move away from that and have it be less a part of our professional life.

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