10 ways leaders can reduce meeting & email time

In the book Rework by Jason Fried, Jason speaks about embracing constraints: “I don’t have enough time/money/people/experience.” Stop whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.”

At work we often seem to have too much to do for the time available. Do you feel like you could work 24/7 but not really make a dent in the amount of work that needs to be done?

With workload are we embracing the constraints with either better or creative ways to work more effectively? Or are we assuming the same work methods we adopted when we entered the workforce are the best way now, even though they might not have been all that productive in the first place?

The questions are valid for individuals but critically important for leaders because how the leader works has a direct correlation to whether the leader can successfully balance the need to meet challenging targets and timelines, juggle priorities, while mentoring and supporting their team.

And we’re not just talking about doing this well in the short term, but having techniques and systems which are scalable and sustainable over the longer term.

Often the problem is too many meetings and emails so let’s look at what can be done to either build or refine team culture in these areas.

  1. Meetings – according to Ibid, managers attend an average 61.8 meetings per month, while research also indicates that over 50% meeting time is wasted. (For many of us we don’t need research to support this as “gut feel” already indicated that)

To reduce the time wasted in meetings do the following SWOT analysis with your team to look at:

  • Meeting duration – challenge the length of meetings
  • Duplication of effort – how many of your team attend the same meeting
  • All or only part of the meeting – for all meetings are you required attend the entire meeting or are you only required for say a 15 minute window?
  • Same meeting attendees required – to reduce the number of meetings an individual needs to attend, can attendees be rotated?
  • 1 on 1 meetings – can these be virtually flipped upside down to reduce the administrative effort and get a better balance between operational and strategic?

By executing the above there’s opportunity for each leader to reduce their time in meetings by 3 – 8 hours per week

  1. Email – a McKinsey Global Institute study revealed the average knowledge worker spends 28% of work time managing email.

To reduce time spent on email:

  • Get out of your inbox – actions live in either the calendar or as tasks
  • Turn off alarms – unless your job is just to respond to emails, you don’t need the interruption of a new email arriving in your inbox
  • Batch – process your email in batches rather than checking for emails 10+ times an hour
  • Rules - use rules to reduce noise
  • Storage and retrieval – have a simple folder structure to easily store and retrieve emails

 There’s opportunity to reduce the time managing emails by 20% - 50%.

Meetings and emails are just 2 areas capacity can be unlocked from. What else can you do differently to get better outcomes from less time?