Rose & Jenna: Save time and do less?

We recently received an email from Emma at We Work, asking if we want to be part of a campaign she’s running. She passed along this article which includes a list of ways to save time and do less and asked for our feedback.

Because Emma a) didn’t sound like a troll and b) runs a “co-working company” to empower people to do what they love (<– we don’t know what that is, but we love the concept), we figured we’d give this a shot. And so below, for this week’s Balancing Act, we discuss whether we save time doing less … and how achievable that really is for us. [Disclaimer: most of these questions relate to work, but we’ll answer them personally if we can.]

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1. Do You Say No?

Rose: This is so hard for me. I’m not alone. I sort of hate that I have difficulty saying no. But it’s getting easier as I get older. It has certainly gotten easier when it comes to social events. If something doesn’t line up with my priorities, it’s easy for me to say: “No way.” It’s not so easy at work. My in-progress list is often far too long. When I am really slammed, I’ll talk with my supervisor about cutting something out, or maybe prioritizing. So, yes, I do say no. But not terribly often.

Jenna: Saying “No” seems to make it onto pretty much every list about being an effective leader, friend (or just good ole human for that matter). It’s important to have priorities, goals, and to know what lines up with them and what doesn’t. However, it’s on every list because it isn’t something that is easy to conquer. I’ve gotten much better over the last year and half at work and personally at saying no. I know what aligns with my priorities and try to let that guide me.

2. Are You Delegating Enough?

Rose: I don’t really have the option of doing this at work, but I try when I must. I am a writer for a living, and not all stories are as important as they may be to the person involved. So I delegate the type of story I’m writing. I may write a shorter Q&A that’s less time for me but still gets the point across. Or a shorter story. In the end, I’ve been trying to really focus on what the story tells me it needs, not just the researcher wants.

Jenna: I need to get better at this. I never want to fall into the category of “master delegator” because I HATE that. However, delegation is a skill that is needed to effectively lead a team. The rest of the team can suffer if things aren’t delegated properly. I need to do more of this.

3. Is Everything on Your To-Do List Necessary?

Rose: It’s not. I learned this tip recently that you should create an ongoing to-do list for everything that pops into your mind. Keep it by your desk. Jot it down so you don’t forget. But whatever you do: don’t do the task right then and there. That can easily suck up 5-10 minutes of your time. Another task will take up another five. If you write it down on the list, though, it will get down eventually. And eventually is okay. So maybe not everything on my list is necessary. But I don’t expect to get it all done right now anyway.

Jenna: It’s not. At my job, a TON of stuff comes at me and it’s necessary that I figure out what will drive the business and be the most helpful for a very large group of people. This takes time and energy but is necessary so that resources aren’t wasted on things that will not have an impact. On a smaller scale, I try to eliminate day-to-day activities that aren’t necessary. I try to step back and ask “is this report really necessary? Who is using it?” instead of just sending it on.

4. Are All of the Recurring Meetings on Your Calendar Necessary?

Rose: Absolutely not. I’ve gotten better at saying, “It would really help me if we didn’t have this meeting right now.” I use that line on days where I’m crunching on a deadline. My supervisor is usually on the same page.

Jenna: I love this one. NO! I will say I am usually the first one to call this out, which can be uncomfortable at times. Unnecessary meetings drive me crazy, and just waste everyone’s time. I have gotten rid of most of them!

5. For One-Off Meetings, is Your Default Length Too Long?

Rose: In some cases. I’ve often set aside an hour to do interviews when 30 minutes would have been enough. But the flip has happened, too. For me, it really depends on the content. If it’s a story I’m really grappling with, I’ll allow more time for it. Because I work with high-level academics, I’m always cautious of their time demands. That has almost backfired at times because I didn’t ask for an interview (when one was really needed).

Jenna: I try to be realistic and respect other people’s time. There is nothing wrong with scheduling a meeting for only 15 minutes. Sometimes that is all that is needed. I also try to be realistic on the flip side: I hate when people schedule thirty minutes for a conversation that will take at least an hour. It can screw up your whole day.

6. Do You Even Need a Meeting at All?

Rose: This is a good question to ask before each meeting you schedule.

Jenna: This one is hard to answer without a specific example presented, but it is fair to say that I try to avoid scheduling meetings.

7. Are You a Slave to Your Inbox?

Rose: A slave to my phone — sometimes. Being in the PR biz is hard because there is always this sense of urgency. But I am getting better at when I check work email (certain times throughout the day). In terms of my email inbox, I’ve been known to turn off Outlook for hours at a time while working on a story. Not every email is *that* important.

Jenna: I don’t like to think so.  I will admit that I am addicted to my phone and tend to check my email within thirty seconds of waking. I am trying to really work on that. I have been better about disconnecting after hours, but could still be better at this. I am conditioned to respond immediately, and have found I am much more effective when focusing on the task at hand and dealing with emails later.

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