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How to Hack Your Work Schedule to Create 28% More Productivity 'Steal' time back by focusing on what meetings are doing for you and dedicating time to think on your challenges.

By Jesse Sostrin

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Regardless of your place on the organization chart, one of the immovable problems in today's hyper-competitive economy is the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands. Translation: There is never enough time in the day to respond to the slow-rolling priorities and challenges that we can see, let alone the disruptive issues that surface unexpectedly.

While it is true that we all strain against the weight of our workloads in the struggle to do more with less, what if there was a way to steal some of that valuable time back? With a little math and common sense you can hack your meeting schedule and manufacture 28 percent more productivity every day.

Related: The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

On a really bad day, a cynical view of meetings is that they can be the single biggest waste of time in our working lives. On a good day, we may look at meetings as the chance to connect with people, discuss important matters and align resources, priorities and actions to get great work done. The reality for most of us is that the quality of our meetings falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Many people report that meetings are costly, unproductive and dissatisfying. They truly monopolize both employees' and managers' time, taking up anywhere between 25 and 80 percent of their workdays. For a full-time worker, this translates to time in meetings from 520 hours to 1,664 hours (or 65 to 208 full working days).

Does your rear end hurt just thinking about all that sitting?

When skipping those notoriously unproductive meetings is just not an option, the next best choice is to "convert them" to productive time that serves your own learning and performance agenda.

Related: Your Time Is Money, So Stop Wasting It

On your walk to the meeting room, while you are seated waiting for others to arrive, or at your workstation before you join the conference call, imagine if you took a couple of minutes prior to every meeting to think through a few pivotal questions that focus on you:

  1. What vital purpose can I play at this meeting to make something productive happen?
  2. What contributions can I deliver during this meeting that will add the greatest value?
  3. What potential challenges could surface and make it hard for me/us to have a successful meeting and achieve the results we need?
  4. Which of my specific challenges and opportunities can I bring focus and attention to during the meeting?

Working through questions such as these not only provides a way to improve the quality of your experience and outcomes at meetings, but it is also a way for you to systemically bring your agenda to the forefront every time.

It is also worth it to spend 3 percent of your time focusing on addressing the unique challenges of your work. This is the equivalent of 62.4 hours, about eight full working days per year or 15 minutes per day.

A few minutes in the morning to clarify your priorities and opportunities -- then a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect on what happened and what you can learn and integrate for tomorrow -- can make a significant impact on your ability to address the unexpected challenges and opportunities that show up.

By adding the 3 percent of your basic investment into your ongoing learning and performance, plus 25 percent of your existing time spent at meetings, you have just manufactured up to 28 percent additional productive time to help you deal with the impossible task of doing more with less.

When you begin to turn the tables by stealing your time back, the concentration of energy and focus on what matters most to you gives you leverage to capitalize on the opportunities that wait for no one.

Related: 4 Easy Steps to Never Sitting Through Another Pointless Meeting

Jesse Sostrin

Author of 'The Manager's Dilemma'

Jesse Sostrin is the author of The Manager’s Dilemma and Beyond the Job Description. He writes and speaks at the intersection of individual and organizational success.

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