Work Edition: 10 Ways to Save 10 Hours a Month
One of my most precious commodities is time; here is how I make the most of it - and how to do it at work
This week, I shared ten simple ways you can save 10 hours a month, but why stop there? If you can find ways to save time at work, you’ll be able to invest those hours in other, more productive activities.
With that in mind, here are 10 more ways to save 10 more hours every month—this time in the workplace. While these are relatively simple suggestions, the biggest thing is not the habits themselves, but giving yourself permission to actually put them into practice on a day-to-day basis.
1. Be intentional about the meetings you join
Too many times, we join meetings just because we are invited, and not because we really need to be there. If you don’t have an action item, or are not key in the DACI, it’s time to ask yourself, “Why am I here?”
Many organizers over-invite as a courtesy so people won’t feel left out and complain. In reality, the list of people who actually need to be there is often much shorter. A simple way to save time is to review your calendar and look for at least one to two meetings each month that you can skip without losing anything.
Meetings are not like weddings, where it is an honor to be invited. They are places to get productive work done. If you are not contributing, give yourself permission to skip.
2. Set up screening mechanisms
When I worked on a payments team many years ago, every team in the company would ask us to scope everything they wanted to build. Our PMs and engineers invested hours in meetings listening to the latest pitches or ideas. Many of them were still half-baked or in the exploration phase. For a platform team, this was par for the course, but it was also a big time sink.
Then we made one change: our TPM created a form asking a simple set of questions before an engineer would meet with the requesting team. In just a few weeks, the volume of asks went down by nearly two thirds.
The problem was that we had been making it too easy to ask us to review something, without making the other team think through it first. Once we started asking questions like whether they had the resources, and requesting that they prioritize their product within their own teams before coming to us, they suddenly realized that it was not worth wasting our time. It wasn't that anybody was acting maliciously; it was just easier to set up time with us as the next step rather than doing the work themselves.
This screening mechanism reduced the overhead for us and made it a lot easier to not have to say no all the time. If you find yourself getting pulled in lots of directions like this, try setting up a filtering system of your own.
3. Reduce the TPS reports in your life
In the movie Office Space, the protagonist is repeatedly asked why his TPS report doesn’t have the proper cover sheet. His boss is constantly on him about this, something that is ultimately trivial and meaningless. No one even seems to read these reports, and this type of “busy work” is mocked as part of office life.
An easy way to free up time is to find the TPS reports in your own life. What are you being asked to do that’s not worth doing? How can you automate them away? I once worked at a place where many PMs wrote individual HPM (Highlights, People, Me) reports for their product areas, but the volume was so great that no one read them. Eventually, we started collaborating on a single org-level HPM, which would be sent out for our whole team to several hundred recipients and posted in our team group once every two weeks. That way, each individual team only had to contribute one or two bullets, which was huge, especially on weeks when there was nothing new. We also centralized the pulling of the metrics so that it was done by one person, rather than multiple teams. The net result was that more people read the updates, and everyone did much less work.
During various periods of high growth, I was often asked by executives for updates on how things were going with our product. It was tedious to have to go to the dashboard, manually pull the data, and constantly email it out. Then one brilliant engineer decided to write a script that would automatically send out the data every few hours, which we all filtered into a folder. If anyone asked, we would forward the latest email and point them to how they could subscribe. This saved everyone time and energy gathering data for updates, and it diverted a large number of random queries about product metrics.
If you often find yourself doing something that can be automated, automate it so you can scale yourself. The extra time investment upfront will save you countless hours down the line.
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