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Meetings and Time Management


  • A Field Guide to Dudes Who Ruin Meetings - by Jim Babb. Takeaway: tips on thow to deal with Cool Tool, Mister Details, Professor This-is-Bullshit and other meeting-ruiners.

  • Gossip, Rumors, and Lies - by Michael Lopp. Takeaway: What are the right reasons to have meetings, how to provide important structure, and the importance of settings an agenda.

  • How I Share Information with My Team - by Mike McGarr. Takeaway: Team meetings aren't the only way to spread information to the group.

  • How Do We Build Better Meetings? - by Jen Bunk. Takeaway: Includes the "4 A's of Awesome Meetings: announce the agenda, attack the agenda benevolently, allow agenda deviations mindfully, and assign next actions.

  • How to Run a Meeting - by Rands. Takeaway: "A meeting has two critical components: an agenda and a referee ... A meeting’s progress is measured by the flow, and the referee’s job is keep it moving along at a good clip, which is why the referee sometimes needs to own it," or improvise. "If you must meet, start the meeting by remembering the definition of a successful meeting is that when the meeting is done, it need never occur again."

  • Only You Can Prevent Tech Burnout - by April Wensel. Takeaway: "The prevailing work culture in Silicon Valley is not sustainable. We all know it, but few are doing anything to change it...As leaders, whether in name or in spirit, you have a responsibility to cultivate a healthier, more sustainable culture. Why? Your team will be more productive. As shared in The Optimistic Workplace, 'People in positive work environments outperform those who work in negative climates by 10–30%.' As an employee, you owe it to yourself to improve your own situation, whether that means inspiring change at your current company or moving on to somewhere that actually does value you as a human being."

  • On Better Meetings - by Lara Hogan. Takeaway: Productive meetings come from doing the right amount of work before, during, and after a meeting.

  • Plan a Better Meeting with Design Thinking - by Maya Bernstein and Rae Ringel. Takeaway: "Start by putting your own expertise and agenda aside and thinking about the people who will be affected by your meeting. Develop empathy for them by asking three sets of questions: Who is going to be in the room and what are their needs? Who won’t be in the room but will nevertheless be affected by the meeting and what are their needs? In what broader culture and environment are you operating and what are some of the overarching challenges and opportunities?" Then, frame the meeting; design it; and test-drive the plan.

  • Reaching Peak Meeting Efficiency - by Steve Sinofsky. Takeaway: "This essay does not contain the magical PowerPoint template for how to run an effective meeting, nor does it espouse a system for deciding how, when, or why to meet. I’ve seen every type of agenda, preparation, tracking, issue-list, decision-making tool, template (whether using Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Outlook). Call me skeptical. In my experience the best tool for meetings is scheduling time to have them in the first place and then to be present. The rest are just distractions to the real goals of sharing, building, deciding."

  • Run Your Meetings Like a Boss - by David Fallarme. Takeaway: Make decisions using data, keep meetings to the necessary size, and be prepared with questions and answers to ensure a meeting is productive.

  • Seven Helpful Tips to Ruin a Meeting – What Not to Do to Run Effective Meetings - by Simon Cockayne. Takeaway: Avoid back-to-back scheduling; unclear purpose; lack of preparation; multitasking; personality-based judging of ideas; running over time; zero followup.

  • 6 Steps to Running the Perfect 30-Minute Meeting - by Jimmy Sjölund. Takeaways: People tend to "default" to 60-minute meetings, but most meetings rarely require this much time. Sjölund offers six suggestions for trimming meetings to a more managemable and appropriate length while simulatenously making them more effective.

  • Start Every Meeting with a Personal Check-in - by Mathias Meyer. Takeaway: the Travis CI CEO talks about how meditation has enhanced his ability to be present, and how this carries into team meetings. "Before you walk into a meeting (virtually or into the meeting room), close your eyes, inhale three times, and walk in. I found that this can have a great impact on my presence and focus in meetings." The team starts meetings with the red/yellow/green scale and everyone states how they're feeling.

  • Three-Day No-Meeting Schedule for Engineers - by Pinterest Engineering. Takeaway: "Obviously there are trade-offs when making a change like this. However, we [at Pinterest] feel that three focused days with two days of meetings is better than scattered meetings throughout the week. The survey results also indicate that the majority of engineers share that sentiment."

  • What I Hear When You Tell Me Your Company Doesn’t Do Meetings - by Johnathan Nightingale. Takeaway: "When you tell me your company doesn’t do meetings, this is what I hear[:] You don’t understand the privilege of executive context ... you also undervalue narrative and alignment [and] ou don’t know how to run an effective meeting." Four questions to ask when planning a meeting: "Who is running this meeting?; What is the output of this meeting?; Who are the right people to produce that output?; How are we going to get to that output?"

Time Management

  • Arrange Your Time and Tasks According to These Seven Categories, and You’ll Be a Creativity Machine - by David Kadavy. Takeaway: Prioritize, generate, explore, research, recharge, polish and administrate.

  • Being Busy Is Now a Status Symbol — and That Needs to Stop - by Frank Kalman. Takeaway: Mostly geared toward an American audience, the article questions the trend toward bragging about having no time and filling one's schedule—counterproductive given stress, health issues, burnout, and other negative side effects. "Yes, working hard is important. But at what point does it become unproductive to constantly seek to be the most productive?"

  • Busy to Death - by Barry O'Reilly. Takeaway: "Over-optimizing for executing work is dangerous. Actually, it’s very dangerous indeed as it causes us to get stuck in plan-do-plan-do cycles. We compromise reflection, retrospection, and review of the outcomes of all the output we are creating. We stop building learning loops into our work to plan-do-check-act the results of all this effort. We don’t allow time to study, consider, or understand if the result of all this activity is actually aligned to what we are hoping to achieve. We are frankly too busy to."

  • Daily Planning — Get Ready for the Current Day - by Jurgen Appelo. Takeaway: a five-part exercise to help you prioritize the day's work and break it down into achievable chunks.

  • Data Driven Time Management - by Noah Kagan at Sumo. Takeaway: Measure your time and then use that data to decide how you really want to be spending your time. This does not just mean office time!

  • Do You Manage Like a Gatekeeper or a Gardener? - by Jared Williams. Takeaway: Directed for new tech leads, this article discusses how to be a gatekeeper—"[who] controls the flow of information in an attempt to narrow focus and avoid surprises" (otherwise known as a "shit shield")—and a gardener who "trusts, encourages autonomy, and exposes their team to higher level problems."

  • Does Your Solution Solve the Right Problem? - by Brian. Takeaway: "[B]efore breaking ground on any project, write down the problem you’re trying to solve and why you’re solving it. Get that reviewed before you make any decisions or write any code. And make sure you do it every time before you start building a new piece of software. Do this, and you’ll avoid the many pitfalls that can keep an engineer from solving the right problem." Why we solve the wrong problems: technology-driven development, premature frameworks, sunk cost roadmaps.

  • EMAIL TEMPLATE: Help a Programmer Stay Focused, Please - by Oren Ellenbogen. Takeaway: "It’s your responsibility to handle incoming requests from humans, to say 'no' or at least 'later' when appropriate. Humans learn, they just need feedback." Includes a template to send people when distractions/disruptions become unmanageable/affect productivity.

  • Evidence Based Scheduling - by Joel Spolsky. Takeaway: "You gather evidence, mostly from historical timesheet data, that you feed back into your schedules. What you get is not just one ship date: you get a confidence distribution curve, showing the probability that you will ship on any given date...The steeper the curve, the more confident you are that the ship date is real."

  • Focus – keynote at AgileByExample, Warsaw and summary - by Henrik Kniberg. Takeaway: Focus on extracting more value from your available time. “Busy-ness” is an artificial concept. Build slack into your schedule to achieve better focus.

  • From Inbox-Zero to Todo-List-Zero - by Joe Goldberg. Takeaway: "Todo List Zero: Stuff on your to-do list that needs more than a moment to resolve should get onto your calendar. Block out time in advance for [this], at the time of day where you get your best work done (figure this out if you don’t already know). Also block out time for self-initiated tasks: time to do nothing but think, time to learn and read, etc."

  • Gatekeepers and Gardeners - by Jared Williams. Takeaway: "To manage, new leaders often adopt the role of a gatekeeper early on and have a hard time letting go...A gatekeeper controls the flow of information in an attempt to narrow focus and avoid surprises." Be a gardener instead. "A gardener trusts, encourages autonomy, and exposes their team to higher level problems. Gardeners turn scaling and growth into a team sport."

  • Getting Started with Getting Things Done - by JB Rainsberger. Takeaway: the core of David Allen's Getting Things Done system, condensed into a four-page document.

  • The Habit of No - by Ethan Austin. The habit of saying no is important for teamwork and keeping a startup focused on the common goal.

  • It's Time to Stop Wearing Burnout as a Badge of Courage - by Stephanie Jade Wong. Takeaway: Predict your burnout using the Overwhelm Cycle, a diagram of a clock that highlights what happens at 11:30 PM for you to hit burnout mode. Then work your way backward. Get a support network, plan breaks and list priorities.

  • Listening Is the Job - by Andrew Bosworth. Takeaway: Have a system for taking in/consuming information; maximize signal-to-noise ratio; give feedback; proactively identify gaps in your information flows; write notes to remember reactions you have through the day; tell your story; be clear about the information you seek; and listen.

  • Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule - by Y Combinator's Paul Graham. Takeaway: The manager's schedule is typically in one-hour blocks, while the maker's schedule requires longer stretches of uninterrupted time. "Each type of schedule works fine by itself. Problems arise when they meet. Since most powerful people operate on the manager's schedule, they're in a position to make everyone resonate at their frequency if they want to. But the smarter ones restrain themselves, if they know that some of the people working for them need long chunks of time to work in."

  • Manage Your Day-to-Day - by Seth Godin, Dan Ariely, Gretchen Rubin, Erin Rooney Doland, and other contributors. The book shows you how to stop letting other people run your schedule; find the right recharge/productivity balance; optimize digital communications/social media use, and more.

  • The Management Technique Essential to Google’s Growth - by Blake Thorne. Takeaway: On the potential benefits of open office hours and how to make them work.

  • Manager Energy Drain - by Lara Hogan. Takeaway: Three tricks to conserve your energy — defragging your calendar, delegating messy and unscoped projects and saying no.

  • My New Calendar System - by Phin Barnes. Takeaway: Ensure your time spent in meetings aligns with your priorities, and that you're not so busy that you can't be productive. Don't overcommit. And check to see if this describes you: "...I found that I was most frequently canceling or re-scheduling on my strongest and most valuable connections because I believed they’d be most likely to understand."

  • No Time to Be Nice at Work - by Christine Porath. Takeaway: "Rudeness and bad behavior have all grown over the last decades, particularly at work. For nearly 20 years [Porath has] been studying, consulting and collaborating with organizations around the world to learn more about the costs of this incivility. How we treat one another at work matters. Insensitive interactions have a way of whittling away at people’s health, performance and souls."

  • No "Yes." Either "HELL YEAH!" or "No" - by Derek Sivers. Takeaways: If you are overcommitted, recalibrate when you say yes. Saying "no" more gives you more time to say "HELL YEAH!" for things that are really important to you.

  • On Becoming Me-Shaped Again - by Katherine Daniels of Travis CI. Takeaway: "It’s unfortunate that it took me getting to the point where I nearly completely broke before I realized how burnt out and unbalanced I actually was. But it’s a good reminder to me to pay closer attention to how I’m spending my time and how I’m defining myself."

  • One-Touch to Inbox Zero - by Tiago Forte. Takeaway: five relatively simple steps for implementing Inbox Zero.

  • Product Strategy Means Saying No - by Intercom. Takeaways: Review common reasons for making product decisions and ask whether they are actually good for the product.

  • Reducing Hours by Focusing your Job - by Natalie Nagele. Takeaway: How to use a mindmap plus the 30-60-90 plan to clarify the focus of your role, plus what to prioritize. Can be a great exercise to do with your team.

  • Three P’s of Prioritizing - by the John Maxwell Company. Takeaway: If you are feeling crunched for time, reevaluate your priorites. The three Ps are Private Time, Production Time, and People Time.

  • The Top 5 Productivity Mistakes - by Ramit Sethi. Takeaways: Talks about the psychology of being unproductive, and how changing the narrative can achive big breakthroughs.

  • Thinking is Work. Give Yourself Time to Do It. - by Chris Savage. Takeaway: "It is easy to feel guilty if you find yourself with the time to think. We have a tech culture that reveres the hustle. Crazy work hours and paying your dues are the norm. The challenge is that, when scaling, that thinking time becomes even more important, and much harder to get." Delegate to find time to think.

  • “Vacations are for the Weak” - by Seth Bannon. Takeaway: "Preventing burnout is part of your job. Staying well rested is part of your job. Sleep and exercise help, but occasional extended breaks are essential too, and their benefits on creativity, productivity, and happiness are well documented."

  • The Value of Flow (deck - by Dan North. Takeaway: "Resource efficiency is about keeping people busy," which leads to context-switching and reduces focus. Pull systems more naturally create efficient workflows; limit the work in progress, to enhance focus.

  • What You Don't Know About Management - How to Take Back Your Workday - by Janet Choi and Walter Chen at iDoneThis. A longer read that starts with self-managing your own success and covers how to manage people more effectively, as well as effective meeting tips.

  • Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work - by Jason Fried @ TedXMidwest. Takeaways: Interruptions are toxic, and make workers have to restart. Work to reduce syncronous communication in order to free up employees to have more uninterrupted productive time.

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