One of the topics that most interest usually generate between companies and work groups is productivity. In fact, it is one of the queries I most often receive in the management of the Science and Technology Park at the Universitat Jaume I.
How can I be more productive with my team? Are we talking about working harder or working smarter? (As Kevin Kruse said, “Work Smarter, not harder”). Spain is one of the countries with the lowest productivity per hour worked, however it is where more hours are worked (it seems that people confuse productivity with working every day 10 hours …). Some blogs mention an OBS Business School report that assures that in Spain 55% of the working time is unproductive and that 20% of the day produces material losses

Understand that motivation, reconciliation of personal and work life and the use of time during the working day are critical to achieve greater productivity ie avoiding procasting … is not easy. In fact, some people believe that just using certain tools can increase your productivity … often it is a wrong conclusion … because the solution is not only the use of tools that manage everything but your ability to be disciplined and manage yourself the work you have what to do.
I will try in two or three posts to collect everything I am observing with the different interviews with companies as well as the projects developed with them to improve their productivity.

Of the working day, one of the great “sins” that are committed and that impact on the daily productivity are the meetings. It is curious how many hours we have gathered throughout the day and what we like to have an agenda full of meetings … it seems that we are afraid of empty agendas that allow us to be operative and executives with the tasks we have to perform: reports, Or just having time to think, analyze, define strategies…. And what does it have? In having to finish the work that you have not done during the day at night, which is equivalent to less rest and less time dedicated to personal life. And that does not solve itself simply by creating “To Do” lists because it is proven that 41% of them never ends up causing a negative effect on the motivation caused by an interesting effect: Zeigarnik by which Bluma Zeigarnik, a Lithuanian-born psychologist described the effect in her doctoral thesis in the late 1920s that showed that people remember more incomplete tasks than completed ones and that creates a certain anxiety that impacts positively on productivity, because in the face of an interruption, it makes us return as soon as possible to finish the task to achieve inner peace.

Bluma Zeigarnik, 1921. Image: A.V. Zeigarnik,

However, studies show that the 8-hour days reduce the Zeigarnik effect and by thus reducing productivity.

The meetings can be classified into three types:
  • those that are carried out internally to review the workload of the week,
  • those that we carry out internally to deal with a specific topic
  • and those that we have with our clients (which in turn we could subdivide them among three others:
    • First meeting and contact,
    • second
    • and subsequent meetings to deepen the issues discussed in the first and spontaneous meetings we have with a client who comes to our office or calls us for a consultation). For all of them I try to follow the following Principle of Equal Value (PEV):
“My time is valuable, your time is valuable so let’s be sensible and take advantage of it,
  • Prepares an initial agenda bounded in time,
  • Meets the initial agenda
  • Do not be late (and less if you do not like others to be late)
  • Do not talk too much, … listen and learn
  • If you finish before the scheduled time … many will thank you and if you see that you do not have enough time (badly planned …) convene another meeting a couple of days later to continue “
The first ones are the most dangerous, because many decide to call it on the first hour on Mondays and that impacts very negatively on the productivity of the equipment: the first hour is when your brain is more receptive and more ready to develop creative tasks, if you “kill” With a meeting of a couple of hours (it’s the time you end up losing in a badly planned team meeting) after you start the day tired. I indicate a set of minimum standards for the team meeting:
  • Set the duration of the meeting from the beginning and dial it to no more than 35 ‘(clicks, various stories … better to leave them for later coffee, remember the PEV!)
  • Spend the time among all the attendees of the team (do not monopolize the meeting, it is frankly unpleasant that you consume all the time of the meeting and then only give a few minutes for the rest to expose what you have to expose because you show lack of interest and selfishness concentrated). Each team member has to know the time available and prepare their dissertation (as clear and concise as possible)
  • If an assistant does not use his time … it is better to finish before facing him to give more time to another ….
  • Do not review the agenda of the last week, the present and the next (this will already comment on the next meeting). It simply highlights the most important of both periods. If someone wants more details of some previous meeting / activity, please refer them to the “Minutes of Meeting” that should have been prepared.
  • Save a few minutes for a “wrap-up” or final conclusions and end the meeting.
  • Prepare the “Minutes of Meeting” (MoM) so that the whole team knows what has been commented and the tasks / responsibilities that have been shared.
(Minutes of Meeting or Summary of the Meeting = document containing the following information:
  • Day, Time, Place, Author
  • Participants
  • Agenda (which includes each of the points to be discussed and two sections that group the Decisions taken and the actions agreed with a resolution and responsible date)
  • At each point in the agenda, it is indicated what is decided with a code, for example DC01-220117 with decision number and date of that decision to allow a better follow-up. In addition, the action to be taken against the decision taken, for example ACC01-220117, will be included. Here it is not necessary to put the person responsible and the target date of resolution, we will pick it up at the end of the document)
The second ones are used to develop a specific topic and not expose it in the team task monitoring meeting. In this case it is equally important to establish an agenda and to follow it faithfully (I repeat, the jokes, various stories … better to leave them for later coffee, remember the PEV). In any case, it is always better to split the contents of the meeting in several than to break the PEV and waste all participants with unproductive long plays.
Finally, in the case of clients, the PEV is applied if it fits most strongly and also follows the following minimum standards:
  • Prepare an agenda in advance to distribute it among all the attendees explicitly indicating the estimated duration of each item you have indicated in the agenda as well as the total duration so that the interlocutor does not find surprises that he can not handle (that we lengthen the meeting too long and Have to be excused for having another commitment)
  • Determine as precisely as possible who will be the audience: if you know, try to get information from each participant to facilitate the conversation.
  • If it is the first meeting with the client
    •  Make an internal pre-report with the basic profiles of the client (who does not need to tell you everything he does)
    • Listen and talk little. The more you listen, the more you will be able to learn, understand and identify customer needs. Remember: the protagonist of the meeting is your client, not you.
    • Take note of the comments made at the meeting and prepare the famous “Minutes of Meeting” (MoM) and share them with all the attendees to confirm that they understood the messages that were exchanged at the meeting.
    • Identifies the number of subsequent meetings based on the most relevant topics addressed at the first meeting.
    • Establish the subsequent action plan before the meeting ends (with dates for the next meeting if it is in the short term)
    •  Ah, and do not answer the phone unless your wife / husband is calling you. There is nothing more disagreeable than to let you interrupt in front of someone who has come to meet you, even to tell you to call later.
  • If it is the second or later, reduce the content of the meeting to the maximum and focus on the most relevant topics but following the steps we have discussed for the first
Finally, do not allow more than two meetings a day … remember that you have to have time to write the Meeting Minutes !! Among other things … so it is best that you distribute the meetings throughout the week in moderation.
Any experience to share?
Keep on your radar … we will follow working on it ….

About Juan A. Bertolin

I consider myself a “orchestrator” to tackle challenges  putting together the hybridization of independent solutions to achieve a comprehensive and higher value added final solution (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). Since 2006 I started to enjoy supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow, innovate co-opeting, opening spaces for open collaboration and sharing, integrating the customer experience and emotions in co-designing new innovative elements.

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