DiBona & Associates
DiBona & Associates

How Top Teams Manage Their Time

10.12.22 10:37 PM By Noel DiBona

Do you invest your team’s time as carefully as you invest money?

An evaluation of how your team spends the precious commodity of time may surprise you. More than likely, you will find the ineffective use of email and meetings are killing your organization’s effectiveness.

The return on the investment of this time is exceedingly poor.

Electronic communications have become distorted in many organizations and prevent key team members from doing more important work. For example, consider an email sent to a group of 12 people, most of them copied on the email for information purposes. According to Metcalfe’s Law on the network effects of communication technologies, this one email holds the potential to create 66 interactions. That will clutter lots of inboxes. Some good interactions, for sure. But how many interactions are unnecessary?

Not to say that all email is bad, but most team members are being overrun by the sheer volume of email. 150 emails per day, equates to more than 35,000 emails per year. At 100 words per email, on average, you are looking at the equivalent of 7,000 pages of 12-point font. That’s fourteen, 500-page books! And this doesn’t count any attachments that you have to spend time sifting through. Obviously, no one is reading each word, but it still takes time to sift through all the emails and prioritize your follow up.

In addition to email, when you consider the amount of time spent on instant messaging, crowdsourcing applications, text messaging, and other electronic networking platforms, there is a lot of wasted time, and these disruptions exponentially grow.

And here is the kicker, with all of the communication technology available to us, a study by Bain & Company revealed that approximately 80% of the communications are within departments. Most of this large time consumption on e-communications has not produced more collaboration outside organizational silos!

How much time do you spend on e-communications?

Another alarming shift is the rise of dysfunctional meeting behavior. How many times have you seen meeting participants get on their laptop or phone to send an email or text message? How many times have you seen meeting participants step out of the room for that important telephone call? The point is, is that meetings can be very costly when you add up the amount of time spent by leaders at all levels in a given organization. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of dollars for larger organizations.

Let’s consider an average junior manager that is going to 20 hours of meetings per week, and taking 8 hours of time to answer emails. That leaves only 12 hours left for tasks other than meetings and communications. There is no wonder why this time burden drags down productivity in most companies.

Here are some helpful tips to combat these problems:
  1. Establish crystal clear priorities and don’t kill the team with a long list of special projects.
  2. Establish a fixed time budget for meetings. What if every meeting conducted in your organization didn’t exceed 30 minutes? That could save 10 hours per week for each of your teammates. You would in effect be creating a time bank for meetings and you would see that the team would become more judicious about calling a meeting.
  3. Establish clear levels of authority to call meetings. Highly performing teams establish rules for who gets to call a meeting. In some organizations, lower-level managers are calling meetings that are ringing-up big costs. High-performing teams understand the cost of time and have established clear guidelines.
  4. Create guidelines for e-communications. Leading companies have found that it is important to be more disciplined in how we electronically communicate. They have rules and protocols for emails. How about reducing the number of one-to-many emails and reducing the number of people being copied on the email. As a leader, if you model this behavior, it will catch on to your team.
  5. Measure the organizational load your team experiences and provide feedback to your team. Why not measure critical variables that impact productivity, like email volume, meeting time, and meeting attendance?
  6. Hold meetings that work.

Ask yourself, is a meeting the best way to get the job done or can we do something different that is more effective?

Many meetings are held without having a specific agenda. Meeting agendas should be clear and focused.

Reduce meeting time. Particularly, for virtual meetings because participants stop paying attention after 25 to 30 minutes. Even for in-person meetings, most people lose focus after 45 minutes. We strongly suggest you invoke the 30-minute rule!

Create a decision log to capture decisions. Why have a meeting if no decisions are made?

Start on time. Idle time just increases the investment of people waiting to begin a meeting.

Manage the invite list. There should be a clear purpose of why certain individuals are invited. Everyone attending the meeting has a reason to be there

Once your team has more discipline in e-communications and meetings, they will enjoy higher levels of productivity.

The company enjoys a better return on their human capital while each team member will have better work-life balance, and more job satisfaction by getting their job done. These team members are happy to discover they aren’t working late into the evening and on the weekends to get their work done.

Now that you are armed with this information are you willing to bring more discipline to e-communications and meetings for your team?

If so, you are on your way to becoming a Top 10% leader.