Nathaniel Ward

Meetings should be 30 minutes or less

“How did an hour become our standard time allotment for so many meetings, phone calls, and appointments?” Peter Bregman asks. There’s tremendous value in keeping meetings to 30 minutes or less:

Here’s why: my intensity is higher (I know I only have 30 minutes), I eat better (I don’t rely on my workout to keep slim), I integrate movement more into my day (I don’t rely on my workout to take care of all my fitness), and I never miss a workout (I can always find 30 minutes).

If you have half the time to accomplish something, you become hyper-aware of how you’re using that time. And hyper-focused during it. Most of my phone calls are now 30 minutes or less. My podcast is 15 to 20 minutes. Even many of my conference calls, with multiple parties, are 30 minutes or less. People on the calls, aware of the time constraint, are more thoughtful about when they speak, and more careful not to follow tangents that aren’t useful.

How are you using your downtime?

Teddy Wayne:

There are many moments throughout my average day that, lacking print reading material in a previous era, were once occupied by thinking or observing my surroundings: walking or waiting somewhere, riding the subway, lying in bed unable to sleep or before mustering the energy to get up.

Now, though, I often find myself in these situations picking up my phone to check a notification, browse and read the internet, text, use an app or listen to audio (or, on rare occasions, engage in an old-fashioned “telephone call”). The last remaining place I’m guaranteed to be alone with my thoughts is in the shower.

It’s not just during downtime that you’re mindlessly distracting yourself. You’re checking Facebook “just for a minute” a half-dozen times at your desk. You’re catching up on your Pocket reading list when you could be enjoying quality time with your family. You’re reading about a news event and then checking Twitter to see what the hot-takes are.

Avoiding these distractions and refocusing on what matters requires deliberate effort. Turn off notifications on your phone. Disable the “ding” that indicates you have a new email. Log out of Facebook. Delete the apps you hate that you use.

Use group chat wisely

Group chat is a useful tool for work, Jason Fried writes:

I just don’t think it’s the go-to tool. I think it’s the exception tool. It’s far more useful for special cases than general cases. When used appropriately, sparingly, and in the right context at the right time, it’s great. You just really have to contain it, know when not to use it, and watch behavior and mood otherwise it can take over and mess up a really good thing.

The goal is productivity, not communication for its own sake.

Don’t be afraid to fail

Ed Catmull:

If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy—trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it—dooms you to fail.