Time is money. So why waste it!?

[Guest post from Anne Charbonneau, Managing Partner for France and Benelux]

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 11.01.37I recently read a great article in The Harvard Business Review about how companies tend to ignore the importance of time as a valuable resource: "Your Scarcest Resource" by Michael Mankins, Chris Brahm, and Gregory Caimi.

The point the article makes is simple and compelling. Most companies have heavy procedures for managing cash flow and revenues. They require a compelling business case for any new investment and impose  spending limits on everything.

In contrast, an organization’s use of time goes largely un-managed. This is despite the fact that phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, meetings, and teleconferences eat up hours in every executive’s day, wasting their time as well as everyone else’s.

So, is your company banning Post-It notes for their staff becasue they are too expensive, but allowing everyone to walk in meetings with their laptop open and let them emails during meeting? then read on…

First , the scary truth:

  • Email overdose: most executive now receive about 200 emails per day.
  • Meeting time is skyrocketing: on average, senior exec spend more than 2 days a week in meetings, a percentage that has increased every year since 2008.
  • Not much real collaboration: 80% of interactions happen within departments, with no cross-business or cross-function interaction. Too many meetings are stilll designed for simple sharing of information.
  • Dysfunctional meeting behaviour is on the rise: Double booking for which participant decided which one to attend at the last minute, emailing during meetings etc create huge time waste for everyone.
  • And in spite of all of this, they seem to be no penalties or control for those bad time management habits

Here are some top tips to improve time management in your organisation:

REQUEST SIGN OFF: Make sure important and recurring meetings are signed off, not just booked by a junior assistant just because someone asked.

PICK THE RIGHT FORMAT: Think twice about who should be there, for how long?  Establish for example guideline limits to number of participants, such as 6 max for any meeting. Most days, I cycle pass the Amsterdam Townhall and I see groups of 20 or 25 people sitting in a meeting,  and wonder how they are able to  achieve collaboration and decision process, do they have a secret trick?  The article also advices to reduce the default meeting length from 60 to 30 minutes. 
Watch this great film for an insightful & hilarious depicition of your average conference call. 

Ask WHY? : We ask for the business cases for new projects. Say "NO" to meeting without objectives and purpose. 

START ON TIME. FINISH EARLY: We use this principle for our workshops, but making it a habit is a good idea. Late start-times are a huge time waster. A one-hour meeting starting only 5 minutes means  8% of meeting time wasted. We would not accept 8% waste in other areas, so why accept it here?

WHAT GETS MEASURED, GETS DONE: One good idea from a client of mine is to ask staff to donate €10 to a charity for each minute of delay. It's one of the only time I actually got on a teleconference with all 12 people actually there at the exact start time. 

In conclusion, really treating time like it is money will make your company more efficient, and free up some time for more interesting work projects, as well as family & friends.