I can’t remember the last time I had a new year’s resolution. But this year I decided to go for it.
A friend and I were joking that we increasingly feel like Producers: how we spend a large chunk of our time just making sure that things are moving. That a meeting has action items, or minutes. That tasks are scoped, their dependencies tracked, have resources assigned, or have dates on a calendar. That a process has proper gates to allow for course correction, etc. I now spend a majority of my time writing emails, attending meetings, or talking at desks.
Death by Mail
But what is crippling is the emails. I feel I have made a career out of always trying to be helpful, but I was surprised how easily I reply to anything someone sends me. And how willing people are to just ‘go hunting with a shotgun’ and mail 15 others instead of trying to have a discussion with the right person. Many of the mails I saw myself spending time on were threads involving many people and important topics, I felt the need to be involved, but we rarely seemed to come to solid decisions -just running commentary. These mails often had more than 10 people added in CC ‘for awareness’, but then those people feel the need to contribute their opinion in some way.
It turned the simplest discussion a raucous ball of noise, which often then required the creation of a meeting to make a decision on how to progress.
The meetings were more successful, I think in part to the fact that only the people who needed to be involved in the decision were invited. Unfortunately, I had often spent time on the mail thread to avoid the need for a meeting, only to find myself reiterating my sentiments in a meeting the next day.
I looked for a day where I wrote the least number of mails, the number was ~35, and it was a recent sick day when I had stayed home.
Small Adjustment, Big Victory
So I decided to pull myself out of this, after all it is somewhat self-induced. Of all the options, the best seemed to limit myself to 10 work emails a day. All other communication would be in person, in meetings, or on the phone.
I didn’t think this would have the impact it did.
From this, other things started to fall in place. I really disliked how I would increasingly feel like standard operating procedure was constantly looking for dropped balls. I need to let dependencies and other departments drop their balls, and hope that they will learn from it, or hope that someone else is watching. In essence, trust people more, and as a by product: spend more time being a Director and less a Producer.
10 emails a day forced me to really choose what email discussions I want to be involved with carefully. I was not respecting my own time, and this arbitrary rule forced me to do that. As a result, it allows me to spend more time on Art Technology initiatives, looking at the project, talking with my team, and giving proper direction.
I can’t reject meeting invites, or ignore mails, but this little adjustment has really helped me more than I thought it would.