I have a confession, I used to be a habitual 'tuner'.
A tuner is a person who incessantly tinkers with their schedule, productivity tools and reads volumes of blogs and books on how to be more productive. About six months ago, I finally stopped all the tuning and set a 'no fly zone' on my schedule tinkering and productivity tools to see what would happen. Lo and behold, the time I recovered from not constantly learning new tools and adapting to new schedule formulas was a time windfall. I was able to get more done and spend more time with my family.
I recently read a publisher draft of Brad Feld's excellent book Startup Communities (the actual book is out in October, so you should go to Amazon right now and pre-order it)(also, Tej did a great review of it that I heartily agree with and won't rewrite my own gushing review of.) Of the tens of things that I took away from the book about building long-term startup communities like Boulder or Des Moines, there were two in particular that caused me to rethink violating my own no-fly zone.
The first was something that Brad implemented to cope with the growing bulk of meetings on his calendar, which was setting office hours like our college professors did. This allowed him time each week to meet with all of the people he was struggling to squeeze in to an ever-busy schedule while still leaving time to tackle the projects he needed to tackle. I looked over the last three months on my schedule and I am averaging about six hours per week of 'informational meetings', plus at least an additional 2-3 hours of random drop-in meetings. All of these meetings are good and useful, don't get me wrong, but an unlimited schedule of those is unsustainable.
The second item was actually something observed from swapping rapid-fire Q&A emails with Brad in the subsequent days that I recalled from Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero, which is that 'less is more':
"I used to think one-line email responses were the height of rudeness. If someone took the time to type me a 20-paragraph email, I always felt I had to respond in kind. It's like that horrible feeling at the holiday gift exchange when you realize that the present you brought cost a tenth of what your colleague spent. Well, get over it, because it ain't the same thing." - Merlin Mann
Takeway: If you can say it in 1-5 words, then do that. Making three paragraphs out of it won't create any more meat, just textual fat.
There were a couple more items that were more important and not workflow related from the book that I will cover in follow up posts.
As far as the first two are concerned, here we go. Starting next week, I'm blocking out Thursday mornings for 'Office Hours'. Requests to meet that aren't explicitly part of one of my existing companies or StartupCity residents will be scheduled for Thursday mornings. This should help everyone involved as it keeps a consistent window for follow ups and also won't suffer from the other meeting-runs-late vagaries of my schedule. It also aligns well with the open-office hours at StartupCity every Thursday, so people can mix and mingle to everyone's benefit.
Second, expect a lot more one-line emails. Social graces are important, but not so much that they should add minutes or hours to inbound and outbound emails. Right now, I regularly skip my morning workout (not good) to triage my inbox, and that's just not sustainable in the long term. I'm going to trade efficiency for prose for a while and probably piss everyone off, but the meaning will be conveyed as efficiently as possible.
That's it. Speaking of efficiency, no pretty summary and wrap.