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You Only Have 1,440 Minutes a Day – Stop Wasting Them

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If you work in federal IT, you’ve repeatedly heard the phrase: “Do more with less.”

It has evolved into a mantra for the federal government, as budgets and resources tighten while the amount of work increases. Usually the focus is at the macro level: How do we reduce costs and increase effectiveness through new strategies, and new technology?

But what about our daily routines? The most precious resource we have is our time. We have a mere 1,440 minutes every day to sleep, eat, work, socialize, exercise, raise our kids and kick back with our favorite TV show. That’s a lot to accomplish. So how can all of us working on federal projects take back time in our days?

Slight changes we can make every day can add up to significant time savings. Cutting sleep is off the table, but here are a few other opportunities to add precious time back into our packed schedules.

The Magic of the 15-Minute Meeting

Why do we divide our day into 30-minute intervals? Should we blame television sitcoms?

I’ve noticed that 30 minutes is either too long for a meeting or too short – it never feels like a meeting wraps up in exactly 30 minutes. If they did, the habitual “three minutes late” arrivals to meetings would not be so common.

In response, I’ve started to turn shorter conversations into 15-minute scheduled discussions and more complex meetings into 45 minutes. It has been astounding how 90 percent of those 15-minute meetings stay within that window and 100 percent accomplish the same outcomes as they did in 30 minutes. Think about the meetings you had today and how much time you would have saved in 15-minute intervals.

Nix the PowerPoint Presentations

I don’t dislike PowerPoint. I fully understand federal agencies need data, frameworks and summaries to facilitate discussions. Unfortunately, the content of the conversation has become increasingly lost due to an overdependence on images, icons or emojis. The majority of time we spend on PowerPoint is focused on making the material look good. The information within is usually compiled before we even create a new presentation. Sharing information in a text document for an internal meeting will likely accomplish the same goal.

If we focus on the data and content, as opposed to how it looks for a brainstorm or discussion, we can have more meaningful conversations and discover solutions faster—maybe in 15 minutes, instead of 30 minutes.

Reconsider Newsletters

It may be difficult for millennials to believe, but there was a time when talk shows on cable news were a novelty. They commanded large audiences by pioneering the way news, interviews and commentary intersected. Today, it’s nearly impossible to turn on television and not find a dozen shows attempting to do the same thing. We have reached a saturation point and there is no reason for the average viewer to watch all dozen shows, when one or two would suffice.

Have we reached that same saturation point with internal newsletters? Like cable news shows, internal newsletters are not inherently bad. Yet, do they accomplish the goals of driving readership and generating discussion? If you can answer with an absolute “Yes,” then let’s keep these newsletters going. If the response is, “I don’t know” or “I don’t think so,” then it’s time to discover a new form of internal communication.

There are a number of platforms that employees can use to share information, such as Yammer or Slack. By moving away from newsletters, there is the potential to save your organization several hours each week.

Limit Attendance at Meetings

It can be a painful experience to dial into a conference call a couple of minutes late and be greeted by an automated voice declaring, “There are 14 people on the call.” Before I even introduce myself, I’m thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot.”

Is it really the most productive use of 14 people’s time to have them all joining the same call? We want to involve as many voices and minds together as we brainstorm solutions and discuss potential initiatives, but there can be overlap in these situations. Before you send out that next invite with more than 10 names, take a quick glance at the invite list and see if a few of those invitees can be given time back.

Aim to Reclaim Five Hours per Week

These are just a few suggestions and opportunities. My ultimate goal is to try to gain back five hours per week, or one hour per working day.

Think about what you could do each week with those extra hours. Maybe you can reinvest in yourself and your passions. Maybe you can finally focus on that long-term idea that is constantly being pushed aside for near-term deadlines.

Let’s boost morale and take our time back. Try it for one week and see how it works – the results may shock you.

Dan Helfrich is the federal practice leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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