Less is More

Trying to meet with an executive can be a tough challenge, they never seem to have the time. When people climb the hierarchy of organizations their agenda’s become more and more cluttered and workload only seems to increase. But why do the brightest and best in their job have to work more and more? Why do they not decrease the amount of time spend working and start doing more in less time? This article is about doing the right things and provides the reader with useful tips along the way. In this article three topics are covered; meetings, project management, and time management.

Meeting Cancelled

Meetings should serve a goal, and that could be one of three; 1) informing others, 2) making a decision, and/or 3) working together. When none of these goals is achieved or will be likely to be achieved, a meeting can be cancelled. The only reason for getting together with a group of people is to advance the work, not to express your frustrations, bore others to death, or stay indecisive. Therefore meetings that were planned in advance and no longer will be likely to fulfil one of the goals should also be cancelled.

Are you however still in need of informing others, making a decision, or working together? Ask yourself if there is an alternative like phone calls, Skype, emails, or IM. All will probably reduce the time needed for travel, unnecessary attendance, and frustrations. When you do decide that a meeting is necessary the next decision should be about who to invite. As a rule of thumb, you should only invite people who help to develop one of the three goals a meeting can have. Fewer meetings with fewer people can significantly allow for more time to work on other things.

During the meeting itself, the goal should be clear per topic. Of course, there should be an agenda and appropriate facilities for presentations or alike. More tips on how to conduct an effective meeting are stated in a previous article – Effective Meetings.

Give Responsibility

Working with a team means that you will have to delegate some of the work. This principle is the same for a CEO as is for a project leader at a high school project. Both groups, and everyone else can benefit from delegating tasks. This does not mean however that you give other people a task, and then ask/check/control them every single minute of every single day until it is finished. This means that you should be able to (mentally) let go and trust the other person.

Trough this act of letting go, you empower the other person. When done right your team-member will feel ownership for the assigned task and will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish the task. Less control will result in more productivity, and less wasted time by both yourself and the person you have delegated the work to.

Reserve Downtime

Not only does the less is more principle apply for meetings and working in a team, for your personal effectiveness rest is of vital importance. When working continuously, as many CEO’s do, people forget to take time for breaks, family or weekend. Your cognitive capacity starts to hinder already after 2 hours of work, imagine working at 80% or 60% for the remainder of the day. So make sure to take regular breaks, even as many as one per hour (for 10 minutes).

Also, be aware that some of the best idea’s pop into your head when you are not actively focussing on a certain topic. So take time off during the evening and spend it with your family. Keep the weekend clear of appointments and reserve time to do things that have nothing to do with work. This will allow your brain to recover and ideas to settle/crystallize. Less work can result in more productivity.

Less is more is, of course, a rule of thumb. A very useful one, one that you should keep in your minds-eye before planning unnecessary meetings, keeping a close eye on your team members, or when you want to go work after having worked 10 hours already. And maybe there is even one more place where less is more applies; less worrying is more happiness!

References & Further Reading:

1. http://lifehacker.com/5992224/if-youre-not-making-a-decision-sharing-information-or-brainstorming-dont-have-a-meeting

2. http://vpaa.unt.edu/how-to-effective-meeting.pdf

3. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/cd/other/fs9729.pdf

4. http://people.ucalgary.ca/~design/engg251/First%20Year%20Files/effect_meet.pdf

5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/03/01/5-simple-steps-to-more-efficient-effective-meetings/

6. http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/03/28/how-to-delegate-work-effectively/

7. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_98.htm

8. http://greatist.com/happiness/how-stay-focused-work

9. http://ergonomics.about.com/od/ergonomicbasics/f/What-Is-a-Human-Cognitive-Capability.htm

10. http://blog.haygroup.com/five-steps-to-effective-delegation

11. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2013/09/27/in-praise-of-lazy-managers/