What is your view on e-mail etiquette in meetings?
Most meetings are not very “information dense.” That is, for each minute of a meeting, there isn’t a whole lot of information that you need to process. That’s why I feel that it’s okay to check your e-mail during many internal meetings; if you take 15 seconds to look at your smartphone, you’re not missing much. Nevertheless, this approach is not viable if the meeting is urgent — for example, if it must decide on the firm’s response to an economic crisis.
In any event, your boss’s opinion is far more relevant than mine. If your boss considers it rude to check your e-mail during a meeting, then you probably need to keep your phone tucked away.
You keep your morning routine simple — with no complex choices. So you’re relegated to a life of either Cheerios or Life for breakfast. Why is that important?
Each of us makes many mundane decisions each day: what color tie to wear, what route to take to work in the morning, what to buy at the supermarket, and so forth. Research shows that these decisions gradually wear down your mental energy during the day, making it more challenging to perform the tough mental work required of professionals.
So to minimize the number of decisions I make each day, I “routinize” various aspects of my life that I don’t particularly care about: what I eat and what I wear. The night before, I lay out my clothing for the next workday; each suit goes with a certain tie and a certain shirt. I eat a very simple breakfast each morning (a bowl of cold cereal and a banana) and the same lunch nearly every day (a chicken salad sandwich). This leaves me with more mental energy to deal with those tasks and decisions that matter more to me.
You should figure out what parts of your life you consider “low-priority” — where you are okay with having a standard solution — and get them into a mechanical routine.
I’d like to start taking a nap in the afternoon. How should I break this to my boss?
A nap is essentially an investment of time, which pays off in the form of increased productivity throughout the rest of the day. This is a very high-return investment: empirical studies suggest that a nap as short as 10 to 20 minutes can make you more alert and focused through the late afternoon.
Unfortunately, despite the clear benefits of napping, an employee might be reluctant to take short naps lest they be identified as “lazy” or a “slacker.” In my view, this is the result of a culture of “face time” — valuing employees’ work by the hours they sit at their desk, rather than the results that they produce.
Thus, in order to take a nap, you should agree with you boss on what tasks you need to accomplish that day or that week. When your boss sees that you get those items done well and quickly, while taking a short nap each day, he or she will become a believer. You should also find an out-of-the-way place (such as a conference room) to take your nap discreetly.
I’ll finish by asking you to answer one of your questions: What’s the point of getting more done in less time?
The answer to this question is different for each person, depending on their own preferences and their stage of life. Personally, I try to be productive at work in order to have more time for myself, my friends, and my family. I figure that most people share this aspiration. However, I’m sure that there are professionals out there — say, owners of fast-growing start-ups — that would use the tips in my book to get more work done while keeping the same hectic schedule. But no matter what your preferences are for additional time, you can better achieve your objectives by adopting the practical suggestions in this book.