Taking Back Tuesday


“Let’s just throw a quick 30 minute weekly meeting on the calendar for status on XYZ.”

“Let’s put an hour on the calendar, just in case.”

The quotes above are my two worst nightmares. With the new job, I took over for someone who was located in the same Time Zone as our head quarters, which made scheduling really easy for them. Their workday probably overlapped between 90-100%. Given that I’m currently located three hours ahead of our head quarters, my work day probably only overlaps with 50% of theirs. (For those of you keeping score, I know those hours probably don’t add up to the expected number).

The time zone complication has lead to a bunch of meetings being scheduled over my normal lunch hour, and other meetings that I schedule, being over theirs. However, recently I read Basecamp’s Guide to Internal Communication and realized how often I was also doing the things I complained about in the opening of this post.

So, I’m changing my bad-behavior.

First, I’m sorry if I’ve booked meetings that could have been an email.

meeting should have been email

Even more, I’m sorry if I booked meetings over your lunch or at 7p your time.

Time zones aren’t that hard, especially when Slack tells me exactly where you are.

On top of changing my scheduling habits for meetings, I’m also changing my communication habits. If I want to convey a piece of information, I am going to take the time to write it up in a more formal fashion. If I have questions to ask, I will sit on them and let them percolate, then ask the question. If the answers are best for sharing, I will document them in the most useful place.

Information is much too ephemeral with Slack, Email and other communication mediums, so we need to ensure that we’re doing what we can to make information permanent and searchable.

Tuesdays (and Wednesdays)

I spent some time analyzing my calendar for the least booked day I have, which turned out to be Tuesday. In fact, it didn’t take much to move what little I did have from Tuesdays to another day. So, I took back Tuesday. It’s mine now. No one can have it. I will be lightly available on email and Slack, but it’s the day I need to get real work done.

While I was at it, I took back Wednesday too, with the exception of 1200-1245 (although I’m working on moving that one). I also booked a recurring hour long block from 1300-1400ET for lunch. Normally I’d eat earlier, but I seem to have a lot of recurring status calls at 0900PT, so I’m just making the best of what’s around.

What do I plan on doing with all this time if I’m not in meetings, you ask?

The truth is, a majority of my job is focussed, hard work, that requires time to get in the zone and really think through problems. I can’t do that with 30-minute breaks between meetings and most likely you can’t effectively work that way either. Those of us who have spent most of our working career in the age of the smartphone, have probably become “adjusted” to an interrupt driven workflow, but our monkey brain still isn’t quite used to this.

Every Slack message, every email, every notification is just a draw to distraction and procrastination. On my new found productive days, Tuesday and Wednesday, I will be just checking in on Email and Slack a few times during the day, allowing myself to focus on the real work that I need to get done.

This is my current plan, I’ll give it a go and see how it works.

Update after 2 Months

It’s gone quite well. In fact, I’ve extended my blocked out time to include all day Tuesday, 90% Wednesday, and 50% Thursday. I’m pretty happy with this setup and I have found that I’m much more productive.

With COVID-19 and the stay at home orders, I’ve found that people have all gotten used to the idea that we’re going to be integrating home life and work for a long time. This has worked to my advantage in taking back my calendars, because I think a lot of other folks are doing the same thing.