Before you send that meeting invite

Unopened envelope icons

At some point during the past three months, you have probably attended a lot more online meetings than you normally would. If you are anything like me, you probably wondered why some of those meetings took place or why you were invited in the first place? COVID-19 has changed the way we work. More teams are staying in touch using digital technology. Zoom, the video conferencing app saw its shares increase in value as more people signed up to take part in online meetings.

It is understandable that as we continue to work from home, we will have to attend more online meetings. What many people don’t seem to realise, however, is that an online meeting is similar to a physical meeting in one crucial way: there is no guarantee that the meeting will be productive. A lot of people send out invites to online meetings because they confuse busyness with productive. Their supervisor is no longer breathing over their shoulder so they fear being thought of as slackers if they didn’t convene a meeting every few days.

An outlook calendar page
Let’s find a place for it in my calendar

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Meetings are where ideas go to die

A conference hall set for a meeting

I dislike meetings. Especially those that go on for two hours and the only task you have to do at that meeting is listen. Many meetings can drag on way too long and go beyond schedule. Despite this, a lot of people seem to like meetings because they create the illusion of one having been productive. They are supposed to be places where ideas get discussed. When they run too long, however, most people start checking their phones under the table (if they can get away with it) or even fall asleep.

Meetings are inevitable for some people. If you are one of those people, you have my sympathies. However, there are some policies you can get your organisation to adopt that can make your meetings more productive.

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Did you wake out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?

A sign that reads "Wrong way"

Scenario A: You wake up after a good night’s rest. You eat a healthy breakfast. When work starts, everything seems to fall in place. You are in the zone. All your A-tasks for the day get completed and you make progress towards your goals.

Scenario B: You wake up grumpy. The electricity goes out while you are trying to boil water for tea. When you get to your car, you discover you have a flat tyre and the spare tyre has no pressure in it. By the time you get to work, you are ready to take your anger out on anyone unfortunate enough to get in your way. You can’t seem to focus. You give up on getting any meaningful work done before lunch and just want the day to end so you can go back to sleep.

A girl getting out of bed
It all starts from here

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Be productive, not busy

A gravestone. The words "Let Go of The Busyness" are etched into it

Nigerians are a very busy people. If you go to a Government Office and need something signed, the person holding the stamp is bound to tell you to wait a few hours because they are busy. Never mind, they don’t seem to be doing anything. We are in a hurry to beat traffic lights and complain when KAROTA stops us and demand that we pay a fine. We should be forgiven. We are busy people who just happen to be in a hurry and the light should have stayed green just a few seconds longer. We try to cut queues because we are busy. Should I go on?

A busy man on social media
Doing what?

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Consistency produces results

Consistency is Key

There are broadly two ways to get any project done:

  1. You could dedicate a lot of time and effort to get it done in a single burst.
  2. You could do it in small bits that you can manage for short periods of time.

The first method might work for short duration tasks such as rearranging a book shelf, washing your clothes, or ironing your outfits for the upcoming week. It won’t be feasible for longer term projects such as writing a novel, reaching a sales target or saving enough to buy a house. It is not likely you would be able to sit down and produce 60,000 words of a first draft in a single day no matter how committed you are. You are also not likely to be able to reach all your potential customers in a single day. That’s why you come up with a longer term sales strategy.

"Consistency is better than rare moments of greatness"
The quote says it all

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Have you had your pomodoro this morning?

A pomodoro timer on a desk

Do you have trouble getting started on a task even though you know what the next step should be and have everything you need? If this sounds like you, the bad news is not getting your tasks done automatically sets you up for productivity failure. The good news is you can do something about it. Let me introduce a new word: Pomodoro. No, it’s not English. The pomodoro technique is named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He chose to name the technique after a tomato shaped kitchen timer he used as a student. I promise you don’t have to buy a timer to use this technique.

A tomato shaped kitchen timer
The timer that started it all

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What’s distracting you from work this week? (iv)

Icons of popular social media platforms

This is the final part of the posts this month about dealing with distractions that stop you focusing on your most important tasks for the day. I assume you are here because you read the previous three and would like to read the fourth. If by some miracle, you haven’t please check them out here, here and here.

Picture this scenario. You are about to go into a meeting with a prospective client. That client could be the big client you have been working towards getting all year. The meeting will start in 30 seconds. You get a call from your spouse or a message asking you to call them. What do you do? Another scenario, If you work from home and have children, how do you stop them from walking in through the closed door to play with mom or dad?

A torn scrap of paper. The word "urgent" is written on it
A child believes everything is urgent

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What’s distracting you from work this week? (iii)

Icons of popular social media platforms

This post is the third in a series of posts I am writing this month on how to deal with distractions at work. If you have not read the earlier posts, you can read them here and here. Today’s post will focus on how to deal with distractions from coworkers and friends.

Everyone has that co-worker who drops by to say hi and magically stays to chat for an hour. You might have a friend that drops by your workplace unannounced and expects you to listen to their problems? We are social creatures who want to connect and have positive relationships with people. The people you work with are part of your professional network. You will often need their input at some point if you are to be effective at the job you do. It will be a bad idea to alienate them. Your friends also represent an important part of your network. Hanging out on your own can be dreadfully dull.

A empty stretch of road
No one wants to walk alone

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Getting Out of bed should not feel like a chore

A handwritten card that says "do what you love"

“Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

-Anonymous

It’s no secret that many people in Nigeria are in jobs not because that is what they want to do but because it is the path their parents chose for them. A joke goes that In Nigeria, you are either a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or the disgrace of the family. So much pressure from family has probably led to the death of dreams for an aspiring writer, entrepreneur, social media analyst, web developer or theatre artist.

Many Nigerians join the civil service not because they genuinely want to serve their fellow citizens but because of the job security and the guarantee of a pension after 35 years of service. Perhaps that is why, public services are run so inefficiently in Nigeria. The people don’t want to be there. They are just forced to.

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