I Want My 10 Minutes Back!

There was a famous business book in the ‘80s called the “10-minute manager.” The book focused on how managers could be effective by better focusing their time and zeroing in on key issues. It then morphed to the “1-minute Manager,” probably to sell more books, but the point was the same.

Sometimes, things go way beyond “busy” in our work and personal lives. Our personal devices greedily consume whatever moments of attention used to be filled by quiet space, and we sometimes feel like we’re dealing with crumbs of time. We race from one event to another, one meeting to another, while our list of “to-do’s” ends up looking like a Boston expressway during a rush-hour snowstorm.

How do we regain control? Well, I can’t speak to the complexities of people’s personal lives, but from a project perspective, there is one trick I can share. It’s getting back 10 minutes of your day.

Take a look at your calendar. It is probably littered with meetings. Which meetings (if any) do you control? For the ones you control, try the following:

  1. Shorten the meeting from the standard hour to 45 minutes;
  2. Create an agenda with timings. This will give you a sense of whether 45 minutes is enough time.
  3. State a desired outcome: what will be different if you have the meeting (decision made, people get information they need to do their tasks, etc.)
  4. If it is an on-going meeting, include a brief recap (just bullets) of the previous meeting. If this is informational only, ask yourself whether an emailed update would be more effective.
  5. Circulate hand-outs ahead of time (attach them to the invitation) and let your attendees know what they should be getting from the handout

Meetings sometimes linger, even when all the salient points have been discussed, because no one “concludes” the meeting. If you’re running the meeting, do a quick wrap-up statement to conclude the meeting, for example:

“Ok, we have decisions on points 1 & 2. Jon will research point 3 and come back to us with an answer by xx. Then, we’ll meet to decide how to proceed.”

If you’re not running the meeting, but it clearly has ended, try this:

Say “That’s everything I need. Is there anything else anyone needs from me?” as you stand up and close your notebook.

If the answer is Yes, sit back down and answer the question or take down the task that just came up. If not (98% of the time), watch how others in the room will start to follow suit, standing up and gathering their stuff.

Ok, so you got your 10 minutes back. It doesn’t sound like much, right? After all, what can you really get done in 10 minutes? A lot, as it turns out:

  • Plan your day;
  • Send a critical email;
  • Capture notes from an important meeting;
  • Read the minutes/notes/handouts before your next meeting;
  • Create an agenda;
  • Make an important call;
  • Spend 10 minutes thinking about the best way to solve a problem.

If you get back 10 minutes three times a day, you’ll have 30 minutes available to you; if you do that every day, you’ll get back 2 ½ hours per week and 10 hours per month. Not bad.

Oh, and there is one other thing you can do with your 10 minutes—write a blog (ok, maybe it took 20 minutes).