The yesterday box, recurring meetings, and fresh personas
It’s time for this quarter’s highlights and lowlights. Have you taken a moment yet to look back over the past 3 months and look ahead to the months to come? Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough for doing your own Quarterly.
Only takes an hour or so.
Put it on your calendar today.
Meanwhile, I’ve got three super-practical tips for you this week:
Email getting away from you? Try using the yesterday mailbox
Sometimes, for whatever reason, you can’t get to everything in your ever-growing email inbox. Scheduling set times to deal with email is key, but it’s easy to get bogged down after the first few messages if replies are quick to come in. It can feel like you’re getting nowhere.
Try starting with yesterday’s emails instead. Leave today’s alone for now. If you get through everything from yesterday, you’re done for the day.
The big advantage of dealing with day-old email is that your to-do list of emails can’t grow. One down is one down. Also: there’s less of a chance that email exchanges start looking like a chat, with both of you emailing at the same time and expecting speedy replies.
Don’t underestimate the positive pressure of recurring meetings
There’s a lot to say about the downside of weekly meetings. Sometimes your heart just isn’t in it. Or there’s no clear plan. Or 3 out of 4 people there are trying to get something else done at the same time.
My point today is this: recurring appointments can also make things happen. They introduce a deadline that people wouldn’t otherwise feel. They give the team a predictable rhythm where folks can ask questions that have come up or clear away impediments or decide to tackle things differently. Maybe you’d do better to seize that moment.
I’m mostly thinking of those status update meetings people love to hate. Here are some suggestions:
If you’re the meeting organizer, what behavior do you hope to encourage with this meeting? What’s the intended effect? And does the meeting help contribute to that? Talk openly about your intentions.
If you’re a participant, how can you take advantage of this planned meeting? Or could you put this valuable time to better use? Is there anything to be gained here? Maybe something that saves you time and trouble at some other point in your week? Or maybe you could write out the update you usually provide in the session, and share it afterwards instead—with your teammates, your clients, your associates.
How could you make use of the pressure that comes with a recurring meeting, since the meeting’s already in place? Or would the pressure work better if meetings happened more often, or less, or in another form altogether? Don’t be afraid to experiment.
When I was working on the Dutch Covid app, we decided at one critical juncture to have a status update every hour. Sometimes it’s smart to update each other daily on your progress. Sometimes it works best to have the recurring meeting focus on a single question. Often these check-ins can be asynchronous, as long as everyone responds by a certain time. Explore the possibilities!
Find yourself a problem-solver persona
When I’m facing a dilemma of some sort, I find myself thinking of certain people I look up to. I think of someone who stands for a certain way of doing things, so I can fill in the choices they might make in my situation.
Maybe that rings true for you, maybe it doesn’t. But looking to people you respect when you’re in a tight spot—or just a new spot—can be a great way to take a fresh look at your own behavior and choices.
What works even better is having a collection of these personas on hand. Then you can easily look at whatever challenge you’re facing not from your old familiar perspective, but from a brand new vantage point. See if you can add one new way of looking at things to your collection this week.
Here’s some inspiration:
Find new personas by looking into a company or organization with a creative and successful approach.
Find new personas by checking out organizations that have caused revolutions—big or small—in your field.
Find new personas by finding out who the mentors are of the people you currently look to for guidance and perspective.
Good luck and have a good week,