The average American receives dozens of credit card solicitations each month. How many of these “invitations” do you accept? I would imagine it’s very few. Now think about the number of meeting invitations you receive each week at work. It’s probably a dozen if not more… What if you were as careful with your time as you are with your credit rating? What shifts might that cause in your standard response?
Imagine that your meeting schedule constitutes your “investment portfolio” with each accepted meeting representing a commitment of your key resource – time. Let’s take a closer look to determine the current ROI you are earning on that portfolio. Start by opening up your calendar to a representative week. Now, categorize each appointment into one of the following categories:
• Supports the achievement of my most important goals
• Develops my skills or expertise
• Cultivates a key relationship
• Supports someone else’s priorities (but not necessarily my own)
• No clear value
Based on the number of meetings you’ve placed in each bucket, you can calculate your current investment portfolio. Typically, we find that executives are over-weighted in the last two categories and seriously under-invested in their most important goals. A portfolio re-balance is needed! Ideally around 40% of your time should be devoted to your most important objectives. About 25% should be invested in your own skills and another 25% in relationship building. The remaining 10% can be offered up for other people’s priorities (which often supports relationships as well). Try to waste as little as possible of the 2400 minutes in a work week and you will find that you’re able to close your laptop earlier and earlier each day.
Time Is Your Most Valuable Resource
To manage your time investments most effectively, you need to operate from the belief that time is your most valuable resource. While it’s an easy statement to make, it’s much more difficult to consistently put into practice. It requires that you make conscious choices about how you spend your day when it’s much easier to just strap in and ride along with where your calendar takes you.
Here are four strategies for getting a bigger return on your time portfolio:
1. Given your role, design your optimal portfolio. In some jobs, such as product managers, you get work done primarily through meetings. You would expect to have a high number of them each week and your goal is to make them as effective as possible. If you are more of an individual contributor / maker who creates value through independent work, your calendar should have large blocks of uninterrupted working time allowing you to get into a flow state without the distraction of meetings.
2. At the beginning of the week, create appointments with yourself to do your most important work. Label each appointment with what you plan to achieve during that time block. This will allow you to protect your own working time and ensure that a meaningful portion of your portfolio is weighted toward achieving your most important goals.
3. Never accept a meeting invitation that lacks a statement of purpose. Chances are, if the organizer hasn’t spent the time in advance to determine what you will achieve during the meeting, it’s going to be a low quality conversation. Rather than declining it, mark the meeting tentative and send a response: “Can you clarify what you are hoping to achieve during this meeting so I can be better prepared?”
4. Shorten your standard meeting duration to 45 minutes. Given that at least 25% of meeting time is considered wasted, shaving off those 15 minutes is a no regrets move. It should cause you to sharpen your focus in every meeting so that you are able to accomplish the same objectives without all the waste. Use those extra minutes to write a concise recap of the meeting you just held which typically doubles the return by significantly increasing the likelihood that the decisions and action commitments made in the room will be carried out.
A few small changes can make a big difference when it comes to your personal return. Develop a discerning eye when it comes to your time investments and see how it impacts both your productivity and your experience each week.