September 27, 2023
Over the last 6 months we have run a long cycle of user discovery:
- We interviewed over 400 knowledge workers in SaaS companies in the US and Europe
- 70% of the interviewees work in product management, with the rest being split across engineering, operations, marketing, sales and success.
- 90% of the interviewees worked in companies between 50 and 500 people, but we have also heard from people in much larger organisations such as Grubhub, Lyft, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc.
To all of them we asked “what blocks your productivity and what are your best practices?”
When it goes to best practices, most if not all the participants engage in a combination of the following:
Goal Settings, planning activities, reviewing results
Weekly Goals - a key principle is to focus on what moves the needle.
In our interviews we've heard a lot of "this week I will be successful if I do these (3) things”. When you need to prioritize, the The Eisenhower Matrix outlines a framework to segment your goals by importance and urgency:
- First, focus on important tasks to be done that same day
- Important but not-so-urgent stuff should be scheduled
- What’s urgent, but less important, could be delegated to others
- What’s neither urgent nor important, don’t do at all.
Weekly and Daily Planning - make sure you organize your time around your goals.
- “Every morning I spend the first 10-15 minutes thinking at what I have to accomplish” and “Sometimes I do that at the end of the day or the night before”,
- “I keep track of all that I need to complete for the following day or for the week.
- “I do my planning on Sunday night for the week”
- A key aspect of planning is the compatibility with our planner “Connecting task w/ calendar helps for several reasons (1) Make sure I have time “the constraining factor is the number of hours that I have available to do the work” (2) Set up others expectations on when stuff is ready - “Hey, I will have an update by this time”.
- Review results - a thorough weekly review is a cornerstone of the Getting things done methodology as an opportunity to review past activities, track results, collect learning and iterate for the next goals.
👉 Here is how you can Follow a daily routine in Mindmesh
Time bulk activities
In our interviews we’ve heard people that “try to do emails and slack only a few times a day to limit distractions”, others who “bucket their own focus work half of the day and have meetings the other half” and some who “clear Friday afternoon to get back to people's emails”.
Context switching is productivity's top enemy. A widely quoted articles maintains that Employees switch apps more than 1,100 times a day, decreasing productivity.
To escape productivity loss from all the workplace distractions, many find helpful to get to the most important work first. This approach is at the cornerstone of the Eat the Frog Method - the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it”.
Another popular approach is the 2 minutes rule from Getting things done “If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined” the reason is that is more efficient to deal with something now and be done with it, than starting from scratch later. This approach works much better tough if combined with time bulking, i.e. deciding when focusing on lots of small tasks and ace many of them (the so called “processing time”)
Today’s knowledge workers typically spend more than 85% of their time in meetings (MIT Sloan review). As a consequence many organisations such as Atlassian and Facebook are enforcing no meeting days, while Google has 2 no meetings weeks.
Regardless of company policies a very popular hack is to block time on your own calendar to keep external disruptions out and focus on our own work. Microsoft suggests some best practices for focus time:
- Schedule focus time with intention by dedicating the time to specific tasks.
- Eliminate as many distractions as possible during focus time, such as: Work in a quiet location, put away your phone, turn off extra screens, shut down email, Teams, and other collaboration apps, and consider wearing headphones as a focus time signal.
👉 Here is how you can do Focus time in Mindmesh - this is a feature we loved building - you can also directly book in your Google/Mindmesh calendar a Mindmesh To do Card, but also an Email to answer, or a document from 25+ app to focus on.
92% of employees consider meetings costly and unproductive (Harvard Business review), and yet meetings are not going anywhere (even though their average length went down during the Pandemic).
To make meetings worth it is key to prepare them by. Here are some tips to prepare and run successful meetings:
- Have a clear agenda, and send it upfront to all participants to set up expectations, including material to review. Include if possible question and to-dos for participants;
- Do your own readings/work to prepare;
- Start the meeting by reiterating the focus. Keep track of timing;
- Decide who is taking notes;
- Followup with action items
👉 Here is how you can do prepare a meeting Mindmesh
Note Taking and Todos
A key principle of Getting things done is downloading stuff somewhere > stress can be reduced and productivity increased by putting reminders about everything one is not working on into a trusted system external to one's mind.
We believe that these interview quotes explains it well:
- “Create a new note quick, then organize later”
- “Going back to own notes any time I can or by end of week to revisit and organize them”
- “Notes are the place where I refine my thoughts before being ready to share out”.
A crisp overview of your work can benefit from the right visualisation - very popular Japanese model now mainstream is the Kanban Methodology
This is the core value proposition of Mindmesh - centralizes your own notes, todos and work coming from 25 + apps - so that you can sort, prioritize and focus on what is coming next.