Episode 19: Got a minute...? How to best invest each minute of your day!
Time, the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. How many times have you been asked, "Got a minute…?” We can think of 10,080 reasons why this is an important question to answer. We all have 168 hours in a week (10,080 minutes.) How we spend them and who we spend them with often defines our success and quality of life. Is your calendar out of control? Do you find the time for the things that are really important? Do you often feel drained of energy due to competing time demands? Are there too many distractions? Would you like helpful ideas and practical tips for “creating” time? As with many things, Time can either be a terrible task master or a great servant. Please join Jeff Smith and Lee Hubert for the answers to these and other important questions. Got a minute…?
Lee Hubert is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Keynote Speaker with Voltage Leadership in Roanoke, Virginia. He brings energy and enthusiasm to grow leaders at all levels, help managers reduce conflict and build teams that produce results.
Lee has served in various human resources and leadership development roles at Fortune 500 companies including: MCI, Wisconsin Energy, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Wake Forest University Hospital, and the Hospital Corporation of America. As a public speaker, he has presented leadership development topics at management retreats and strategic planning sessions throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern USA.
Lee brings over 20 years’ experience in Management Training, Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Succession Planning, Employee Relations and Conflict Resolution to bear for clients of Voltage Leadership.
A native of Syracuse New York, Lee holds an MBA in HR Management from Upper Iowa University Fayette.
Jeff: Welcome to Voltcast. So glad you could be here with us today. I really appreciate everyone taking the time each and every week to come and join the show and send us notes throughout the course of the week. Some of you respond to us on the blog, other places. Really just enjoy the interaction so thanks so much for that. We’ve got Lee Hubert here today. Lee, Welcome.
Lee: Hello. Good to be here.
Jeff: Yeah, Lee, mildly excited about his Green Bay Packers.
Lee: That would be the Green Bay Packers that are going to be playing Atlanta for the NFC title.
Jeff: For those of you outside of America, this is our version of football so here’s very excited.
Lee: Well, let me tell you, everybody in cheese land was bouncing off the walls during the last two minutes of that Dallas game so give them credit. They win on the road, tough thing to do.
Jeff: It was a great game. We were watching relatively as mutual fans. Kind of not Cowboys fans so we were very much enjoying the game. Congratulations, Lee.
Thanks for reaching out during the week. So, during today’s show if you’d like to connect with us let’s give you the ways. Lee will be here for the next hour and we’re going to be talking about time management best practices. How do you manage each sort of moment of every day and be able to figure out we all get a certain amount of minutes per day, hours per day, and how do we put them to the most effective use?
This thing time management, one of the reasons I wanted to go ahead and do this, we’ve eluded to this topic a couple of times. I know Scott Eblin talked a good bit about it in his Overworked and Overwhelmed show back in the fall. Then, at the start of the year I know a lot of people are working on their new resolutions trying to maybe get more out of the day, or maybe they’re trying to incorporate some more chances to work out or maybe they want to spend more time with family. It all comes back to that thing called time, though, right? It’s that precious resource, right?
Lee: Time is one of those things where it’s a terrible master, but a great servant.
Jeff: Ooh, I like that.
Lee: You saw on our e-card getting ready for this week’s radio show you look at some of the questions that are there. Is your calendar out of control? Do you find time for the things that are really important to you? Do you feel drained because of all the competing time demands? So, how you spend that time, I should say how you invest that time, has a lot to do with your success professionally and personally.
Jeff: Let’s go a different way first. I’m just curious, one of the things that we get a lot is that time just feels harder. Sometimes we’ll hear people say well, you’ve got as much time as Einstein or Helen Keller or George Washington or whatever, you know, so is this a new phenomenon or has this always been there?
Lee: Well, let’s see, Helen Keller, Einstein, yes, oh, who invented time? Where’d the notion of time come from? We all have 168 hours in a week, 10,080 minutes. Really if it wasn’t time measured the way we measure it there would be some way to do it. So, what do you do? What are you called to do? What do you get up and how do you invest your life? Some of the things that I wanted to talk about today is we’ll get real practical a bit later I’m sure, but people shouldn’t minimize how big an impact this has on your lives.
Think about it, did the people who are most important in your life spend enough time with you? Have you spent enough time with them? I haven’t met too many people who hit the finish line at the end of their long careers that say oh, I wish I spent more hours working late at the office. My first wife would tell you that.
Jeff: She did want you spending more time there. Nah, I’m just kidding. No, I bring this up, though, because there are many studies that actually say in a lot of ways we actually have more time than maybe our previous parent’s generation because of things like the microwave and easier access to food and things like that.
Lee: And the office is paperless now, right?
Jeff: Theoretically. As Lee and I each have three pieces of paper with our questions for the show in front of us as well as the computer that we could all just look at it, but you know. I do think that there is an element though that the connectivity, the ability to think and the ability to slow the world down is faster. You know, when you had to wait and I’m reading the Andrew Hamilton, excuse me, Alexander Hamilton biography right now and we had to wait for, like, a ship to come 21 days, 25 days to hear back from the king. There was time to sort of think and plot and have conversations, right?
Lee: Well, that’s relative.
Jeff: Sure. On the other hand, though, it took—if you didn’t get your crops quite right and you didn’t figure things out there were a lot more consequences. I think for today what we’re trying to do is hey, it is what it is. It’s not slowing down. It’s probably only going to get faster. We’re going to try to give you some ideas about, how do you proactively take control of your calendar? And some of the best practices around time management tips.
Lee: I love it. Don’t forget that it’s relative to everybody else too. I mean, think about this, a time before television. A time before computers, a time before cell phones. It wasn’t that long ago. People wonder, how did I do that, right?
We used to talk about crack berries right? It’s blinking at me and I’m tethered to it. That’s normal. It’s got an Evelynn statistic of 72 hours a week. Everybody is on the same field that way unless you’re technologically left behind somehow so it’s relative.
Jeff: Yeah, so let’s just jump right in. Today I think it’s real blocking and tackling and practical. What are some of the best practices that we’re seeing from our customers, our clients and be able to say what’s working and what’s not? So why don’t you jump right in and tell us what do you see that’s working with our clients?
Lee: Well, here’s an excellent point right off the bat. It came from either Michael or someplace. It’s about managing your energy in addition to managing your time.
Jeff: Okay, your energy. Tell me more.
Lee: People say okay, I’ve got to work smarter, not harder. You still have a lot of things to do. People get sensory overload. When we talk about time, and I’ve done this on several off-sites, we talk about the ABC time and all that. Tell me about who you are and how your energy flows. How does it ebb? My A-time is usually about 5 in the morning to about 1 in the afternoon, something like that. That is my—
Jeff: We’re saying that we’re catching you right out of your A-time? Must be B or C.
Lee: o’clock Eastern well, this is between B and C. What’s a good use of time, though, right? I just came from a presentation in Lynchburg earlier this morning. I’m on my game, right? That is within my element. I intentionality did that, right? The next kind of B time for me is around 2:30 to 3 o’clock, something like that until about 6 or 7 at night. That’s when I want to be doing people things.
The point is, if my energy is ebbing and waning I want to do important things while my energy is right and it’s appropriate.
Jeff: That’s great, Lee. Folks really take a note of that. One of the things I use with my clients all the time is keep a time calendar and how long did things take? Also, sort of measure your mood and energy. I break it down kind of two ways. How much thinking power do I need? How much mental power and then how much do I physically how hard is this, right? For me, I used to get up and go running first thing in the morning.
Lee knows this, but I’ve got four kids that all have to be out the door by about 7:30 to 7:40 in the morning. Me being out running not really helpful to the family.
On the other hand, if I wait until the kids finished so, let’s say 7:40 to 7:45, the problem was that I go running then, but my mind was already alert. It’s one of my best times of the day. It was sort of like I was wasting really good thinking time and really good activity. Instead that’s a really good time for me to go coaching, write an article because I am locked in.
Now, today sets up perfectly. I’ve got a couple coaching sessions after the show so good to be live connecting with folks but then at 4 o’clock I’m going for my run. Sort of when I’m sinking, didn’t get quite enough sleep that last night, so it works perfectly so that when my mind is down a little bit. I try to schedule often like a walk or a run late afternoon, mid to late afternoon, to get that second boost of energy. That’s kind of managing your energy.
Lee: Bingo and I’m getting ready to do an executive session with some folks in Lynchburg. Fascinating company, global business and I with intentionality used my B-time from about 3 in the afternoon until whenever it ended to plan that because if you don’t do that the right way, as you mentioned, it’s thinking power. It’s fifth gear, however you want to describe it. I would look up at the clock and an hour had gone by and it felt like 2 seconds.
Jeff: I think one thing that’s there as well so it’s not just managing energy, you need to be proactive with your calendar is what I’m hearing. Not just let the calendar kind of run over you and say oh, well, it’s 2 o’clock, I guess it’s time to check some emails. Oh, it’s 3 o’clock and it’s time for some meeting, right?
Lee: Terrible master, great servant.
Jeff: I think one of the concepts I want to dive into, we’ll start here and continue for a little while longer, is what I call resetting the calendar. It just kind of keeps growing on us and we talked about this a little bit over the holidays with what are your goals for the year? All that kind of stuff. Resetting a calendar, to me, is you look out and say, where’s some recurring meetings? Does that make sense?
I’m working with a CEO right now who just hired a new COO and the first thing they did was we kind of went through and said, okay, which things no longer need to be on the calendar? What things in 30 days does the COO need to be in there sitting down doing for you that currently are there? If we don’t, next thing you know there’s like four or five people in the meeting and he’s still in there. That’s the COO and CEO and now you’ve got a different show where it’s like unclear expectations and we’re micromanaging and he’s like oh my gosh, that’s so smart.
We couldn’t do all of it day one, but there were a couple things we could immediately take off the calendar. Then, we have a 30, 60 and 90 day when are more things coming off the calendar? It’s proactively resetting your calendar.
Lee: That is just so wise because the meetings become events unto themselves. They become a destination and then you wonder, why is this even necessary? I think you made the point earlier, some of these things may have been placed on the calendar weeks or months earlier. Is it a standing meeting? I remember being in a meeting where literally there was a million dollars’ worth of labor on the table.
There’s VP’s and all this kind of stuff. You know, very accomplished people, but I thought if I were to add up the per capita of what was in that room and then weigh it against the output in terms of the quality of the time, was it really worth it? Yet, it was a standing thing. The expectation was you had to be there and the outcome for those folks was exactly that, we had to back off or abbreviate it.
Jeff: We’re coming up here against the end of the first segment. If you’d like to join in, please give us a call. They’ll give you a number here on break. You can also shoot me an email at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com. I scan it throughout the show, but we will be going through practical tips. So, after the break we’ll be hitting on things like interruptions, and how do you deal with email? What do you do with all those alerts? Keep them on? Turn them off? What do you do?
Lee: Turn them off.
Jeff: I think that’s where you’re going. Anyway. Thanks for joining us today on Voltcast Illuminating Leadership. When we come back from break we’ll pick up on some best practices around time management. Thanks and see you in two!
Jeff: Welcome back to Voltcast. This is Jeff Smith, I’m here today with Lee Hubert from Voltage Leadership Consulting. Lee is a sought after speaker, executive coach, consultant, facilitator and really does a great job connecting with audiences and helping them on this topic often, and that’s about time management.
Before the break, Lee, we talked a good bit about sort of where do you measure your energy and putting your energy against the right types of things throughout the day as well as sort of knowing when you’re at your best and lining up the work for when you’re at your best. One thing that we get asked all the time is about interruptions so I want to kind of hit that.
Lee: What was that?
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. So, interruptions. They’re constants. They’re emails coming, there’s text messages, Instagram, Facebook, you name it.
Or the old-fashioned kind, just the knock, knock, knock, you got a minute?
Lee: You got a minute?
Jeff: Lee will love this, Lee’s minute is never quite a minute and I love Lee dearly, but maybe you can start, but what are a couple of your ideas around interruptions? Then I’ll throw in a few of my best practices.
Lee: That’s a great point. If there’s any one thing that managers have it’s they live with the constant stream of interruptions. There’s a talent to managing that. It oftentimes will just affect your ability to succeed as a manager or not. So, how do you manage the interruptions? You mentioned the point about when you’re being your best.
I’m going to talk a little bit about getting granular in a couple different ways. One is intentionally we said, do you have a minute? There’s 10,080 minutes in a week. I think sometimes people get too wide-focused on their calendar. If they start to narrow that focus down to the minutes their ability to manage and create some time gets sharper.
I have a family member who is an executive for many years and then started a business. In that business, which he sold for a pile of money which is good, right? He would talk about my minutes and he would say, it still rings in my ears from years ago, don’t steal my minutes. That never left me and I thought okay, I don’t have his level of intensity or talent for managing the calendar.
He’s a lot more D than I am, although I’m high I. I have enough D, but I think there’s something to that. We’ve got granular that way. The other thing is an old Stephen Covey technique about putting things in your bucket. Here’s a bucket called time. Here’s all the tasks, to your point, Instagram, email, I’m drinking from the firehose, I’m going to get sensory overload, you know?
Something’s got to give. A way of prioritizing, the way Stephen Covey describes it, if you envision the bucket or the glass, the vessel, and I’ve got some rocks and some pebbles and some sand the only way you’re going to completely fill up that vessel and make the most efficient use of your time is to put the big rocks in the vessel first.
Think about it from your mind’s eye. If you put the sand in first, the littler things that might be easier in the short term that look sexy and attractive oh, I can knock this out now, but then for your longer-term results if you put the sand in the vessel first, how are you going to put all the rocks in?
It’s not going to work that way.
Jeff: I think one thing is, and we’ll drift our way back to interruptions, but let’s work back from what you gave us.
Lee: What was that? Did I interrupt you?
Jeff: You may have interrupted my flow of thought, but not exactly. I’ve wrote notes down. I’ve got it. We’re good.
We have to first start out with the big rocks, right? Let’s go with that concept of, what are your big rocks? So, taking time to figure that out. For me family absolutely goes up there. Getting a workout. I really enjoy running or lifting a couple times a week. Those things go on the calendar first and some of the people are like, you don’t know my life. I’m like no, actually I do because I coach plenty of you.
I know you’re busy and that’s why I’m saying get those things on there first. So, on my calendar Debbie, who does a lot of our scheduling, she puts on my dates with my kids. I’ve got four kids, put the dates. Do I get them every month? No. We’re coming off a three-day weekend here in the US for Martin Luther King, but I had time this weekend where I got to go do a hike with each child, or I got to do cards, but if it’s never on the calendar the months just slip by instead of it being a choice.
That’s the first thing to go on the calendar is the big stuff. For us you heard us elude to this over the holidays, we put strategic planning each quarter on our calendar and then we have a team meeting each month. We’ve got in on there so we can fill it in with all of our client work and it’s not, don’t take the client work at B-work, but they come in 45 minute to an hour chunks. Usually easier to reschedule than getting 6 or 7 of us all together at one time for an eight-hour day or four-hour day.
Lee: Which is a challenge to say the least.
Jeff: I think identify the rocks first. Get them on the calendar, right?
Lee: Yes, put the big ones in the vessel first. You made a great point, one of the first things that goes for people that I coach and onboard all over the country if their calendar’s out of control or their focus is skewed is getting physical. That seems to go begging, and relationships, to your point. If you want to get things done and done well, don’t forgo either of those things.
Jeff: I was working with a physician not too long ago. He was a physician leader so he’s both a practicing physician part of the week and a chief over a whole area for a health system. I’m sure he’s like most people, he feels guilty because he could be doing things with his family. He could be doing things for patients. He could spend a little longer in the room.
I won’t say his name just for confidentiality, but I just said to him look, we look at you as a role model. If you’re coming in 20 pounds overweight and then you’re asking us to lose weight kind of hard for us to do that, right? To really buy in and to see that you’re authentic. Additionally, you’re leading people.
If you’re occasionally coming in the office at 7:45 or 8:15 or leaving at 4:30 you give us space to say, that’s okay and I’ve got to take care of myself. This guy does plenty of work so don’t hear that he’s trying to shortchange the organization. Not that at all, but to get it to work sometimes because he might have a night board meeting or this, that or the next thing.
Sometimes it’s 4:30 and he’s like, I don’t know. He didn’t know until he worked about two weeks out and he started putting it on the calendar and guess what? He’s honoring it. He’s doing it three to four days a week now.
Lee: You mentioned something very important. For people who are going to be, I’m going to call it, more slaves than masters of their time those are some of the symptoms, okay? Are you gaining weight? Is there enough time, the original question, for you to do the things you really want to do? What’s important to you?
I understand there may be things you don’t want to have happen. What do you really want and how do you invest your time moving in that direction? About 10 years ago when we were both at Carillion we saw a speaker and he came by and he brought a little card. I still have it, it’s in the back of my wallet. It says, don’t waste your time on things that you don’t like or isn’t important to you.
I still have it and look at it every once in a while when I didn’t do my re-planning stages like no holiday, that kind of thing. I thought, you know what? He’s absolutely right. Some things welcome to the real world, you’re going to have to do that, but there are times when you need to flex your no muscle.
Jeff: Yeah, let’s go back to that. I think that’s a good muscle to use with interruptions. We’ll restart the segment. A few ideas on interruptions. Is it the right time for an interruption? Part of it is that there are times. I encourage folks to have, from academia, office hours. So, you sort of know, this goes back to your energy, 2 to 4 o’clock in the afternoon for me in the office is a pretty good time to get interrupted because I’m not going to be working on my hardest best work.
I’m probably in some email, maybe I’m heads down doing an expense account or something, but I’m not going to put my heaviest work. If I get interrupted truthfully, a high I influencer like I am, woohoo, it’s a party! Someone here to see me, but you should say hey, 2 to 4 is a really great time for me to be interrupted today. Hey, I’ve got office hours.
On the other hand, sometimes maybe 7 to 9 I’ve got my head’s down doing work and unless you really need me, please wait. Some of us just get proactive and also you’ve got to teach. If you’ve been interrupted saying hey, this could have waited for our one on one or you know what? In the future, you’ve got this. You could have handled that on your own.
You’ve got to start to teach on these interruptions which means you have to deal quickly with giving some feedback, but that’s okay. It’s a matter of like, okay, if you’re trying to protect your time that’s part of what you’re going to have to learn to do.
Lee: Protecting the time, you said it. You do a particularly good job of this. People listening out there, I want you to understand what I’m about to say here. When you get interrupted and it isn’t one of your A or B times where you’re thinking okay, this is my strategic window and I’ve really gotta be focused on this, set boundaries around the interrupter.
It’s like okay, don’t be rude. Be professional. Be nice. Be cordial, but at the same time say, you know, I’ve got to be in this strategic meeting, maybe with yourself, in three and a half minutes, go.
Jeff: I do that often and I’ve just learned how to do that. To Lee’s point, sometimes my strategic meeting is running because for me I know that that’s going to be a critical. If I’m trying to get something done and I’ve put on the calendar at 3:30 or 7:30 in the morning or whenever it is that I’m going to run, but you need five minutes then I’m like okay, go, and I don’t feel bad about it. 5 years ago, 7 years ago, I would sometimes feel bad about doing that. Now, I’m like no, that’s my time.
Lee: Interesting you put the strategic off sites. There’s a couple of the executives out there, one in healthcare, one in media, and you know who you are. We go out there and have strategic off sites and let’s dove tail this with the getting physical part. I’ve been doing the 5-mile thing on the weekends ever since June. Fits good, feels good, sleeping like a baby, great brainwaves. There’s something to that when you’re out there at whatever distance it is, whatever your thing is and then all of a sudden ideas start coming.
That is beautiful, wonderful, offline time and then I have to go write it down. A lot of those things absolutely when you get to managing your time, to my point, manage your energy. Thinking about the interruptions as well, when I was a HR direction in healthcare in another organizations I would control my door. You mentioned the knock, knock, knock, is it one of those?
Here are the rules of the game for me. If my door is wide open, come on in and talk about your dog, your cat, your grandma, whatever. Woohoo, it’s a party! Everybody come on it, it’s great, right? Talk about the Packers, right? If my door is ajar, meaning it’s slightly open, knock first, come in and talk about business because understand I’m in business mode.
If my door is completely shut it means I shouldn’t be interrupted because there is something critical taking place and it had better be that level of thing to escalate. Text me, do something, leave a note on my door, but unless you really need to, I mean, it could be anything under the sun. Hiring, firing, whatever we deal with in our world. So, managing and putting guardrails around the interrupters is very key.
Jeff: I can hear a few of the people rolling their eyes like wow, I wish I had a door. I’m out here in a cube form or that god-forbidden thing called the open floor plan.
So, a couple things. I’ve seen people get really creative about how they put things across the opening to their door.
Lee: Right, the opening space.
Jeff: I’ve seen chairs that have the same kind of message like when the chair’s blocking here’s what’s happening. I encourage people also to say that there’s things called libraries. There’s things like coffee shops where sometimes you just need to go down the hall and folks really are like oh my gosh, can I do that? I don’t know your environment. We’re in our last minute here so I’ll just start it on this side of the break.
I don’t know your environment, but in some environments, it’s perfectly fine to go someplace else. I encourage you hey, for that heavy work, the really hard thinking, if the open floor plan’s not working for you go someplace else. Book yourself a conference room. Go to another floor. Go someplace where you’re less likely to be interrupted. If that’s just not possible then I think you have to look at headphones or putting up a message outside your door on the white board or something.
Not your door, but your chief area, on the white board saying what you’re working on and saying I need to not be stopped. Is it going to be perfect? No, and really the theme of today is there is no perfect solution. What we’re trying to do is something a little better and trying to get you back 30 to 40 minute chunks in a couple different ways.
Lee: Got a minute?
Jeff: Well, we’ve got about 10 seconds so let’s recap this area. What we’ve been talking about is how you deal with interruptions, scheduling out your day and maybe thinking about office hours. When we come back from this 2-minute break we’ll continue on with some other suggestions and maybe even start to get into some email and how do we juggle our email? Talk to you in 2 minutes!
Jeff: Thanks, and welcome back. So glad you could be with us. We’ve got Lee Hubert here today who, like he mentioned earlier, gave a speech earlier today and gave one last week. If you ever need a speech or just a little help in your organization or with your association please reach out to myself. Lee loves to do it half the time.
Loves to be on the road and come out. He loves working with folks just kind of building off of some of the themes that we worked on this morning. These are absolutely the kinds of things Lee loves to speak on.
Lee: We were talking about it this morning. We were talking about the five gears this morning and usually people will talk about doing a key note and/or they’ll see that and go okay, how can you transfer that knowledge into the workplace?
Jeff: Well, that’s good. I think one that we get a lot is how they first reach out to us and that’s that email thing, right? That’s sort of—I was laughing. I’m writing a blog. I’m about halfway through and it’s sort of talking about leadership skills. One of the things I talked about is how much has changed. Like, when I first started in the workplace it was interoffice envelopes and we all had a mail slot. I’m like, I’m sounding old.
Lee: I remember carbon paper. Think about that. Holy—yeah, we used to smell it. It smelled really good.
Jeff: I was a school teacher so I had to make copies of everything.
But this email thing it can just overtake us, Lee. I mean, some of our executives it’s 200 to 250 emails per day easily. You know, so maybe can you give a couple strategies and tips and I’ll throw in some of mine after that?
Lee: Put structure around it. You mentioned earlier, turning some of the alerts off. First off, who has access to your email account? When you get solicited all the time you get spammed, you get phished, all that kind of thing. I guard the business email account very closely and I’ve got a couple other accounts, personal accounts, where if it’s something I’m personally interested okay, great, but unless there’s really a reason for that person to show up in my professional airspace I’ll shove it someplace else.
The other thing I do is I try to categorize the emails, right? There’s a way for you to go into whatever software you’re using and tag some of the people. It’s like on your calendar put a color code, that kind of thing. There’s a number of different ways to do it, but understand, I think this is one of the things that you do, there’s rifling and then there’s reading. Encourage people to help digest drinking from the firehose.
If it’s the same title in the email that’s been refried 17 times and you’re forcing me to go to all the way to the bottom of the page don’t do that to me. We’re trying to manage time wisely, right? Create some time. Second thing is just that very thing, get rid of some of that redundancy, right? I don’t need the whole chapter and verse. Tell me what you really think I need to know. Now, I’m not nearly as high D as a lot of other people.
Jeff: Driver, right?
Lee: Yeah, drivers are going to tell you about that right up front. It’s just like be brilliant, be brief, be gone. I don’t want the chapter. I don’t want War and Peace. Tell me what I need to know and then leave me alone. Let me move on to the next bit of information. I can only process so many things and it becomes an irritant to some people.
Jeff: So this is kind of what I joke about on previous shows and use a lot. We’re human beings, not human doers and if we’re not careful the human doing that we become are email pushers. I set up some rules. If it’s gone back and forth twice you need to get up and go talk to the person or call them.
Because it just gets to the point where it’s confusing and something’s being missed in translation.
Lee: It’s not a substitute for face to face.
Jeff: Right. Another one is for every email that you send out expect 2.5 in return. Does this really need to be sent back out? Do you really have to say thank you to every email because then they’re going to say thank you back. Next thing you know you’re just—
Lee: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Jeff: I know you are.
Lee: I bet you do.
Jeff: Delete, delete, delete.
Lee: Delete, delete. Yep. Thank you!
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. It’s also about trying to only touch the email one time. Lee and I were talking about this at our last break. That’s a struggle sometimes because you probably shouldn’t even start unless you know that you can really deal with something with it. One of the things that I really encourage people to do is have what Lee talked about, a structure around your email.
Is it that you’re going to do it first thing in the morning, mid-day, end of the day? I don’t really care. For me personally my practice is what I try to do is I come down and I work out what are my big projects for the day? What are two or three of the big projects that I want to do today? Today a little bit getting into segues for today’s show.
We’re working on a book so I’ve been writing for a couple hours this morning. Then, there’s one more sort of I’ve got another off site coming up in a couple weeks so I want to go get my questions and my thoughts down on paper, right? That’s where I dedicated my day. I did not check email yet because what’s going to happen is once you start getting into that email next thing you know that—reorganize your day. Natural, so that’s going to happen. I actually put a timer on often for my email.
Lee: I love that idea.
Jeff: So 10, 15 minutes because otherwise next thing I know I’ve been there for an hour, hour and a half and I’m guilty of that. I can get locked in.
Lee: Very easy to do.
Jeff: I give myself 10 or 15 minutes and then I have to make a choice at the end of the 10 or 15 minutes. Did I hit what I wanted to hit? Did I get the main things accomplished? Because there are other real work to be done. That speech, or that writing on the book today.
Lee: Absolutely, the bigger rock.
Jeff: And then I have to go do it. It’s more I’m trying to scan to see, what’s the big stuff? Then, what’s the rules of engagement around your workplace? I can remember one person I was working for, he couldn’t understand why someone couldn’t get back to him within 30 seconds on email. This wasn’t texting, this was email. And his maximum time that he would allow is 5 minutes. I just looked at him and said look, I’m an executive coach. I’m going to be on call sometimes 45 minutes to an hour and a half. I’m not looking.
Jeff: He goes, well, you’re different. Some of these people are doing interviews of potential clients and candidates. They’re on a sales call. You don’t want them having to scan their email and stop a sales call or a recruiting call to do that. He’s like well, I guess you’re right, but it’s just this instantaneous nature. So, once he understood what he was doing to everybody, we set up a new rules of engagement.
So, what’s your impact? When you get back all the time like immediately and you’re available 24-hours a day that’s having an impact. That’s sending a message to the organization so study your own impact.
Lee: You are. That’s a great point. What is your impact? I mean, are you training people into a culture of work-a-holism? Are you training people, I mean, 5 minutes is admirable. I worked for a I remember once it was many years ago we would hear on the overhead such in such call this extension. Then, like a minute would go by. Such in such call this extension.
Then, the third time the person would come on the overhead anybody out there call this extension because they were just losing it. Okay, what are your expectations? What’s reasonable? What’s realistic, and are you part of the contributing problem to that?
Jeff: For email there is no perfect solution. What I say is I’d experiment if I was in your shoes. Play with it. Does it make sense to do it once a day? Three times a day? I’ve got someone that only does it once a day. Some of your places that are really customer service or more sales oriented that’s probably not realistic.
But having it open all day and having alerts pop up and ding and bing what ends up happening is generally I would say it takes about somewhere between 7 and 17 minutes before you get back to that task. I think we’re living in such a world that if that was the case we would never get back to task, right?
Jeff: Exactly, but the more that you can dedicate time on your calendar for maybe the rocks or those B activities, so maybe it’s planning for that next meeting, it’s having a one on one, I’m just curious how many of those emails go away. Because a lot of times the emails that we get sent are like hey, Lee, I need your attention. I haven’t been able to get you and I don’t trust that we’ll be able to keep our one on one so I’d better fill up your inbox, right?
Lee: We haven’t gotten to the subject of texting. That brings on a whole other discussion, but with email too, I mean, my practice has been reasonably I think I’ll check it in the morning just to make sure that whatever happened over night because of something I wasn’t aware of. I’d rifle it, right? Then, go into my A time.
It is very seductive to, like you said, get on that slippery slope and all of a sudden, you’re enabling distractions to steal your minutes, right? Don’t steal my minutes. I’ll try it again later in the afternoon usually between my A and my B time when I know I’m not going to be standing up talking, that I’m not going to be doing anything super cerebral.
I can look at the email. To your point, I will try to put a construct around that. Some guardrail to say okay, I’m going to try to get this the time to fit the task as opposed to the task fit the time.
A lot of times I’m successful doing that. Something I didn’t give myself enough credit for doing that well because a lot of times it was like oh, that’s never going to happen. Get that idea out of your head. How many things on your daily planning don’t happen?
Jeff: Right. I’m curious, anywhere else you want to go? Because I was going to take us down a different path off of email now.
Lee: If we’re going to mention texting—
Jeff: Please, go for texting. Let’s do texting now and then I’ll cover my part in a couple minutes.
Lee: You know, during the football game that the Packers won down there in Dallas I have a brother down in Florida who was texting me. You know, you hear that ding, bing, whatever. There’s that and you’re almost like patting a lost dog. IThe phone rings, we’ve been training people for years to accept interruptions, right?
The texting is a great tool. I would say use it for business purposes, especially for folks who are just late to the texting thing. Probably the middle boomers or people who it wasn’t native to, but use it. Use it judiciously. Use it for business and be brief because they’re probably in their car driving and you don’t want them to drive off the road.
Jeff: It was funny that you mentioned this. My phone was blowing up when I was down at the JMU National Championship in Dallas and it was so cold. It was 3 degrees in the morning with wind-chill so at game time it was about 18 or 20. So, we’ve got these big old gloves on so you couldn’t text. I’m getting like all these texts from all these people and it quickly became, do I want to be here enjoying this football game or do I want to answer all the texts?
At some point I could feel, because I had it in my back pocket, it go buzz, buzz, buzz and I’m just like, whatever. I just left it alone. What I want you to think about is you heard me just say I want to be intentional. At the end of the quarter is kind of when I decided to take my glove off, answer a few of them and then I would put it away.
That was intentional, right? Trying to figure out what is your preferred communication within your organization will save you a bunch of time. Is it email, phone call, text? I don’t care what it is. Spend a moment saying that’s your preferred.
Face to face. That’s minimum, just figure that out. Schedule some time around email, right? Don’t let it occupy your whole day, right? Come up with some sort of system. Try not to touch the same email more than once. Occasionally you have to, you have to wait, but don’t go in and read the whole email get halfway through it and take a phone call.
Next thing you know you have to re-read the email, re-craft it, right? So, the more that you can do at just one time I think that’s critical. Blocking time on the calendar to deal with your administrative stuff. Not just email, but a few other things, but match it to your energy level. That can be a lower level energy kind of thing that maybe when you’re just a little tired or maybe when you have 15 minutes in between meetings, or this is just blocking and tackling, try to match that.
Lee: Absolutely. Yes, and don’t be misinterpreted in the email. People are misinterpreting. They think they’re shouting, they’re angry, or whatever the case is. I love your rule about if it’s sent a couple times you’ve got to go visit with the person.
Jeff: Good. We’ve been working on time management. We’re right up against it on our time this time. We’ll be back in 2 minutes and we’ll close out the show.
Jeff: Welcome back and I’m here with Lee Hubert today. We’ve been covering time management, some best practices. So, just a few things and I’ll tee up Lee here around some topics, but some work that we’ve been leveraging is Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Evelyn. Lots of just good suggestions in there. How do you get real intentional about your time? A book I’m almost done reading is Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. So, again, Deep Work by Cal Newport.
We’ve mentioned earlier Five Gears by Jeremy Cubaset, 18 Minutes by Peter Bergman, and then Steven Covey’s work kind of first things first or first break all the rules. Lots of good things there, or building seven habits, but what I’m saying is it’s not hard to find it. You can go back and listen and get that. What I really want you to do is don’t try to do all of these things.
We’re going to is give you a couple more tips. Find two or three and that’s plenty. For me the one that I continuously come back to, when I am at my best I take time in the morning to put my big rocks and say, what are the two or three things? Hey, sometimes you’ve got an 8 o’clock meeting and you go straight into that and then what I find is I get to 4 o’clock and I’m like holy crap, that day just ran right over me.
When I’m at my best maybe at 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock the night before I think about my day or at 7:30 in the morning I think about my day. For me consistently proactively being intentional about the two to three things I want to accomplish in a day, when I do that my day goes well. So, that could be one.
Lee: I love it. Especially to your point about at the end of the day, what are you going to accomplish the next day? What are the must haves? Now, your day is going to be interrupted, right? You’re going to have all of these challenges, things you’re not aware of, who knows what’s going to happen? But at the end of that day I look back and say, did I make a dent in this?
Lee: Or was I distracted by some of these things that I shouldn’t be?
Jeff: We call that the distraction dragon I think it is.
Lee: It is. It’s a fire breathing dragon, it’s the Bermuda triangle of bad, it’s, you know, you get the distraction dragon. In fact, I would challenge people, what are your distractors? If you were to name the top two or three things that take you off focus, that take you off task, what are they and can you minimize them, if not eliminate them? For some people, it’s political blogosphere. We just came through an energized political season.
Some people live and die for that, God bless you, but you can look up at the clock and waste a lot of time doing that. Some people, it’s sports, radio, whatever the case may be. Who’s the better team? Well, obviously, it’s the Packers if you ask me, but that’s fine, but the results on the field are showing that, but that’s the point. If you were to minimize those distractions, what are they? Then, focus on your big rocks.
Jeff: Yeah, I think that’s critical. Yeah, it was interesting for me during football for me with GMU having such a good year. I did find myself going there multiple times a day and I’m generally really, I mean, Lee knows me well. I’m very disciplined, that’s not something I would do, but I was just so excited.
It’s a little bit like crack. Like, right now I’m like we’re done and I go to look to see if there’s any updates and it’s like okay, there’s not much there. We’ve won. It’s done. The spring sports aren’t fully in there. The basketball teams are okay, but it is. It becomes this little drug of this endorphin hit of oh, let me look, let me look.
Lee: I will confess to March Madness and it’s only January now. It’s coming, right? You have all the apps on your computer and your phone now and it almost doesn’t matter where. I like your point about discipline and structure around that. Welcome to the human race, you’re not going to be perfect.
Jeff: I think what Lee’s saying is try as best you can to tame those dragons, turn off alerts. Know what it is and have a strategy towards dealing with it. For me, a lot of times I actually give myself permission. So, a lot of times at lunch that might be when I give myself 15 minutes to go read that.
That way it just tunes it down when it’s 10 o’clock in the morning and I’m sort of in between meetings or coaching calls I don’t go then because I know at noon that I’m giving myself 15 minutes to go and read that and do it then, or it’s in the evening, right? I would also say get up, get your butt moving a little bit, get out of your seat and create.
You’re not trying to get distracted with other people, but sometimes your mind just is so tired and it’s been working so hard. Go for a 10-minute break. Recirculate and then say, how am I doing against my rocks? How am I doing against accomplishing my day and kind of resetting your mind. That’s really helpful.
Lee: Don’t minimize the physical. Even the act of standing up while you’re working. The workplace is different now. I mean, those are days where you need to be seen in a three-piece suit with a vest and a tie are long gone, okay? Long gone with the carbon paper. You can stand up and you can do things at your desk and you can move around. You’ve got the technology to do it so take advantage of it.
Jeff: Yeah, let’s hit technology real quick on that. You also have to have boundaries on that. One of the boundaries I’ve really set is I bring home my cell phone and I leave it right by my keys and I try not to check it at night. I might have to go back to it like tonight or tomorrow night I’ve got basketball practice.
I’ve got kids that their parents might need to call me and all that so I pull it back out, but really by 5:30 I try to have that thing locked away because otherwise it just, what were you calling it? It steals minutes from me.
Lee: Yeah, don’t steal my minutes.
Jeff: Yeah, so what ends up happening is that sometimes it’s only like that 30 second quick check, but what happens is that email that I saw nags on me for the next 2 hours.
Lee: Ah, Pandora’s box has been opened.
Jeff: So now I’m not really at the dinner table with my family or I’m not really at basketball practice. My mind’s still back at work trying to solve that problem. I know that some of you don’t feel that you can do it, but you were talking most of you are leaders. What’s the pace?
What’s the impact that you’re having on your organization on people in your direct reports? You think oh, gosh. I’m just answering the text or the email on the weekend. It’s no big deal, it took me 30 seconds. Well, guess what. That meant that other people feel like they have to answer.
Lee: That’s a great point. In fact, are you educating the people that are in your role up or that you have responsibility over and are you training communicators? Whether you do it implicitly or tacitly you are training people how to communicate with you by the time that you allocate what you allocate it to what’s important to you.
If it’s important for you to be a work-a-holic and send emails, okay, you may be doing that completely innocently. Just want to get it off my desk. Okay, fine. Understand your impact.
Jeff: That’s right, just understand your impact. Does work become your hobby? For some of you I know it does. Give it a break. Don’t feel like you have to answer every email. I had a nice break from it this weekend. I was up in the mountains. We had very limited cell coverage. I didn’t plan on connecting anyway.
I really wanted to just be with family. I got to tell you we played board games and we laughed and went on a hike and built a fire and went to indoor swimming. The phone went with me, but I never looked at the email because I knew, hey, that’s not what I’m here for. Sure, there is a couple things. I had to run a little bit earlier this morning to get some things done.
I’ll trade that for the ability to connect, you know? Find those boundaries and guard rails and decide, how am I going to let the phone? I think you talked about slave or master. It can be a great benefit to you to look up things, to be able to stay in contact when needed, but you can become a slave to it so you have to find some boundaries to it as well.
Lee: There’s a lot of people who will fall into that bucket and say okay, I’m being productive. I understand that, but at what cost? Remember, I said there’s not too many people I’ve known over the years that I wish I’d spent more time working late at the office and my kids will maybe disagree with you on that, right?
With intentionality you’ve done that, you’ve considered the impact. I mean, there’s something to that and don’t forget your work family, okay? The people around you is like a little family. They’re watching if you’re an authority figure of sorts, if you’re in leadership, they want your approval to an extent appropriately.
In addition to that, you are the pace setter. You are setting some of the cultural norm.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, Lee, thank you for being here with me again today.
Lee: Yes, sir.
Jeff: It’s been a blast. Next week we’ll have Jennifer Owen O’Quill, in two weeks we’re going to have Jay Markowitz. Jay is the director of the entrepreneur center at VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, and we’ll be talking about entrepreneurs. What’s the ways that we can kind of charge up our economy and help folks be successful?
If that’s an interest of yours, stay tuned. We have really enjoyed having folks be with us today. Please, as a reminder, during the week we do a blog each and every week on VoltageLeadership.com, go ahead and check out our blog. A lot of times what Lee and I and Jennifer try to do is re-enforce our concepts with our blog.
You’ve been listening to Illuminating Leadership. If you want to follow us during the week and reach out to us on Twitter @JMUJeff. You can connect with Lee or I at Jeff Smith or Lee Hubert with Voltage Leadership Consulting. You can follow us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. Our website is www.VoltageLeadership.com.
You can email me at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com or Lee at Lee@VoltageLeadership.com. You can also during the week give us a phone call at (540) 798-1963. So, again, this has been Jeff Smith. Next week we’ll have Jennifer Owen O’Quill on the show and Lee Hubert, thanks for being with us today.
Lee: Yes, sir. My pleasure.
Jeff: Hey, everyone, thanks for making time with us and spending 60 of your valuable minutes with us. We really greatly appreciate the investment. Good luck trying out one or two of these things. Let us know how it goes and we’ll talk to you again next week same time.
Lee: Go Packers.