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Use PDORA Effectively & Stop Wasting Your Time

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Management

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Essay

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Use PDORA Eectively & Stop Wasting Your
Time
Wastage of time in corporate oces and hallowed halls of bureaucracy is an endemic problem, It is necessary to
ensure that this time is gainfully employed for optimum results. This is an area I follow very closely and I’m
delighted to see such strong interest in potential solutions. Clearly, there are some best practices out there on
how to make meetings more productive. Some of them addressed herein.
We’re all too busy, spending our days in back-to-back meetings and our nights feverishly responding to emails.
(Adam Grant, a famously responsive Wharton professor, told that on an “average day” he’ll spend 3-4 hours
answering messages.) That’s why people who waste our time have become the scourge of modern business life,
hampering our productivity and annoying us in the process.
Sometimes it’s hard to escape, especially when the time-waster is your boss (one friend recalls a supervisor who
“called meetings just to tell long, rambling stories about her college years” and would “chastise anyone who tried
to leave and actually perform work”). But in many other situations, you can take steps to regain control of your
time and your schedule. Here’s how.
State your preferred method of communication. For years, millennials have famously eschewed phone calls —
but almost everyone has a communication preference of some sort. Regina Walton, a social media and
community manager, told me that she, too, hates talking on the phone, a habit she developed after years of
living abroad; email is almost always better for her, as “I can respond when I have time and usually am very fast
to reply.” You can often limit aggravation (and harassment via multiple channels) by proactively informing
colleagues about the best way to reach you, whether it’s via phone calls, texts, emails, or even tweets.
Require an agenda for meetings. Pointless or rambling meetings account for a disproportionate share of
workplace time leakage. Here’s a solution: insist on seeing an agenda before you commit to attending any
meeting, “to ensure I can contribute fully.” You can model the practice by writing an agenda for any meetings you
chair, and o6ering to share the template with others. In fact, you could push to establish company norms that
include best practices such as eliminating generic “updates” (which can usually be emailed in advance) and
clearly indicating the decisions that need to be made as a result of the meeting. “Discuss expansion strategy”
would be a murky and perhaps unproductive agenda item; “Decide whether to open a Tampa oce” can guide
the conversation much more clearly.
Police guest lists. Meetings are also dangerous when their list of invitees has been wantonly constructed, 9lled
with irrelevant people and lacking decision makers with the authority to get things moving. If you’ve been invited,
ask two critical questions. First, do I need to be there? Looking at the agenda (which you’ve insisted they
provide), you can gauge whether your input would be valuable or if you can just 9nd out details afterwards.
Second, will the (other) right people be there? If you’re theoretically deciding on the Tampa expansion strategy
and the executive in charge of Southeast operations isn’t in the room, it’s likely you’ll have to repeat the whole
process again for her bene9t.
Make sure you understand who the real decision makers are, and don’t waste your time (or other people’s) until
they can be present and participate.
Force others to prepare. We all hope and expect that others will prepare for meetings with us. Surprisingly often,
they don’t. Even when they’re requesting the meeting, they may have done very little research and waste our
time with extremely basic questions they could have Googled. Instead, we need to force others to prepare in
advance. “Force” is a harsh word, and that’s intentional — because it’s not burdensome for people who would
have prepared anyway, yet it e6ectively weeds out the uncommitted. Debbie Horovitch, a specialist in Google+
Hangouts, has long o6ered complimentary initial strategy sessions, but realized that some people were taking
advantage with irrelevant discussions.

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She’s adopted a new policy: “Everyone who wants a call/chat with me must 9ll in an application” with speci9c
questions about what will be discussed. “Now that I’ve set my boundaries and expectations of the people I work
with, it’s much easier to identify the time wasters.” Similarly, when people request informational interviews with
me, I’ve begun sending them a document with links to articles I’ve written about their area of interest (becoming
a consultant or speaker, reinventing their careers, etc.) and asking them to get back in touch after they’ve read
them to see what questions they still have. Most never get back to me, which is just as well — I only want to
speak with people who are interested and committed.
I maintain that even if we get the meeting structure correct by insisting that every meeting have a PDORA
(Purpose, Desired Outcome, Roles and Agenda with timeframes)…Admittedly, this would be a vast improvement.
But it would fall well short of ensuring meetings are productive and NOT a waste of time. The other part of the
meeting e6ective equation that is never addressed when discussing this issue is our “Interactive Skills”. How we
communicate with each other and the words we choose when we do…our verbal behaviours. Unfortunately,
between two minds there is often a breeding environment for misunderstanding and distortion. I 9nd it very
useful to 9rst equip teams with a common language (Interactive skills …the software) and meeting structure (the
hardware) for them to truly master meeting e6ectiveness.
Will you face blow-back by toughening up and putting clear boundaries around your time? Inevitably. But you
may also 9nd that people start to respect you —and your time — a lot more. Most of us wish we could control
our schedules better. If you’re willing to step up and argue for smarter policies (like requiring all meetings to
have agendas), that bene9ts everyone. The key is to frame your advocacy not as purely self-interested (“I don’t
have time for this nonsense”), but instead as a manifestation of your commitment to the company and your
shared mission. “I want to make sure we’re all as productive as possible,” you could say, “and that’s why I think
it’s important to make sure we’re respecting each other’s time.” In the end, that’s a hard message to resist.

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Anonymous
Really helpful material, saved me a great deal of time.

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