Getting a Grip When Work is Nuts Pt. 1
We have to do something about crazy schedules! But please don’t give us something else to do.
Anyone who tries to work at 100% capacity for 100% of the time will go nuts!
What do you do when work is crazy and you don’t have time to make it better?
#1. Stop something.
The last thing you need is more to do when your schedule is nuts. What might you stop doing?
Stopping is harder than starting.
#2. One update email:
Send your boss a Friday afternoon report. Briefly describe the week’s projects and your plans for next week. Just a sentence or two for top items.
- Keep it relevant and very brief.
- Begin with, “I thought it might be helpful for you and me to review the week and describe the priorities for next week.”
- Close with, “Please drop a note if you have feedback. I plan to focus on what matters most. Have a great weekend.”
- P.S. – No response needed unless you have feedback or suggestions.
- Make it an information email, no complaining, explaining, or politicking.
(Yes, there is more to do. But this is helpful for you and your boss.)
#3. Establish new rules for meetings.
Focus on things within your control when work is crazy.
At your next team meeting say, “I’d like us to:
- “… shorten all our meetings to 45 minutes or less. Any thoughts or suggestions?”
- “… cancel any meeting if we don’t have an agenda the day before the meeting’s date…?
- “… stop inviting everyone to meetings. …” When someone regularly leaves meetings without a new assignment, they didn’t need to attend the meeting. Give them the minutes or a brief report.
- “… use the two medium pizza rule. Any group that can’t be fed with two medium pizzas is too large for a meeting. The number is five to seven. Fewer is better.
What suggestions do you have for getting a grip when work is nuts?
Which of the above suggestions seems most practical for you?
See part two: GETTING A GRIP WHEN WORK IS NUTS PT. 1
I love the comment 3.“… stop inviting everyone to meetings. …” When someone regularly leaves meetings without a new assignment, they didn’t need to attend the meeting. Give them the minutes or a brief report.
I totally agree. Sometimes I feel like we have so many meetings that it is hard to get anything accomplished.
Thanks Crystal. A meeting should help us get stuff done, not prevent getting stuff done.
“Not inviting” needs to be very transparent. Sometimes people feel left out. It’s a badge of honor to be invited to meetings. This is a culture issue. Maybe it should be a badge of honor not to be invited. (Especially if you are a high-level leader.)
To rhe extent that #2/Milestone Status Report/Weekly Agenda can circumvent bs …
real stuff can happen (#3/productive meetings) and
#1/STOP directing energy into an all-consuming black hole is achieved.
The trick is in dissemination …
Cc: Your relevanly involved cohorts across functional divisions (who presumably report to your boss’s cohorts)
Bcc: your own subordinate team
(who would now see your imperatives as theirs, presumably w/o needing a meeting to do so) ….
… and in directness, i.e:
#2.4 (revised) is the lead (not a “by the way”),
“Unless otherwise directed or objections are stated,”
the following is going to happen soon, based on what’s been achieved at this point …
#2.2 & 2.3 are thus eliminated (unecessary) …
and #2.1/Material Relevancy
(your tactics aligned explicitly to the strategic imperatives)
& #2.5/Nothing Extraneous
(concise/precise/accurate – “hitting what you are aiming at, and nothing else”)
When all these people know what you think and are saying – directly from you, in (careful, considerate) writing – hidden agendas and politics are far less desirable (or effective) in their dealings with you, and require far less of your active energies.
And it’s amazing what you learn when your team drops those issues as an active concern; all of a sudden everyone has more time and energy to focus on their real work.
Thanks for fleshing this out Rurbane! I can’t interact with every point but 2.4 is powerful. It reminds me of Capt Marquet and his book, Turn the Ship Around. Train people to says, “I intend to,” rather than asking for permission.
In deed, Dan.
The power of leadership is in “clearing the decks” of the garbage, and providing “safe passage” (insulation from the chaos) for those “on board.”
By providing clear intentions (strategic and tactical integrity) that people can comprehwns and trust in.
… comprehend and trust in … that is.
Just by fluke I started a weekly update to my boss a couple of weeks ago. SO this is very timely. No feedback yet so must be going ok. I asked last Friday if this was something he wanted and he seemed non plussed as to it’s value. Anyhow I’ll keep doing it as it allows me to gauge our wins and losses for the week.
I love the weekly/fortnightly update email to the boss, I’ve often worked remotely, and been left alone, and it’s a great way to quickly focus on what matters, but also help her/him keep an eye on what else is going on. When there’s something that needs decision/action, that’s first on the list. This method also helps alert to emerging issues so there’s no surprises. And it’s easy to share with the team to remind and reassess priorities. It is a simple grouped list of bullet points, written in action, direct language. We all know the context we work in. Save the phone call or meeting for what really should be there.
There is a great deal of wisdom in this post, and the part 2. I LOVE the 45 minute meeting- have been using it for about 8 months on meetings I lead or can impact the timing of.
The 5-7 people around a pizza though seems a little too much. In my experience, this approach just increases the explanatory emails and meetings, and often creates peeved coworkers whose work has been adversely impacted by decisions made over said pizza.
Plus, people who have much to contribute sometimes have to fight for a seat at the table because of this kind of thinking. If we always share a pizza with 5-7 folks, we deprive ourselves and our customers of the benefit of other eyes and voices.
We have a weekly meeting that technical AND program staff attend to talk about current challenges and upcoming work. Tech staff who don’t care about the program conversations risk making bad decisions because they don’t understand their colleague/customer needs. And program staff who dont listen to technical updates when there isnt a task in it for them risk making promises that their systems cannot keep.
I’d love to hear other ways people choose to manage this kind of complexity without being exclusive!
My “stop something” has been attempting to respond to every email. But I still live with this underlying stress about it.