Tag Archives: practicality and effectiveness

TNF #120: Beehive productivity

Welcome Professionals…

…Have you ever noticed that people around you are influencing your work ethics? It seems to be much easier to work long hours within a room of hard working people than staying late at the office where everybody else leaves at 5 pm.

The average behaviour of people surrounding us is setting the current norm. If we like it or not, we constantly compare ourselves to what we perceive as normal. Even when we are sitting in an empty office that has no distraction at all, our mind may wander to all the colleagues who are already at home. On the contrary, it seems odd to leave when everybody else is still highly engaged and productive.

To pursue our goals, we want to choose our surrounding wisely. Our colleagues, our office mates do matter. Is it really the best idea to choose your home office for some deep work? Or will the mere thought that your children are playing downstairs derail your focus? Some co-working spaces are busy like a beehive, some others feel like a lazy coffee shop.

Wishing you a productive week,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #112: Idle time for the brain

Welcome Professionals…

…I definitely find myself guilty of this. I am not giving enough idle time to my brain as I should. In order to increase productivity and make the most out of my time, I am tempted to schedule out my full day with conversations, problem solving time, writing and so on. I even use commuting time or workouts for listening to audio books or taking online skills training. This is generally very rewarding because of a feeling of high efficiency. However, it can turn out to be highly ineffective when the balance of idle time gets lost.

I have discovered that my best creative ideas happen in idle time. I find solutions to problems that have been bugging me for days at times when I am not actively thinking about a solution. I make decisions or new plans when I let my mind wander without any clear directions.

idle time

While – thanks to our smartphone – it is difficult for anybody to shut of distractions these days, it is especially challenging in top management consulting. Huge amount of information and data to process with tight deadlines, excessive meeting time, solutions to be found for pressing problems, and on top of all this: deprevation of sleep.

Even more so, it is important that we as top management consultants make our minds wander from time to time. The job requires creativity, intuition and judgment – traits which will increase enourmously by taking some deliberate idle time exercise.

When did you recently have one of these idle times:

  • taking a walk or a slow run without listening to music or other distractions

  • looking out of the window, gazing at the landscape while on a train ride

  • standing and watching people pass-by while waiting for a client appointment

Enjoy these times for the sake of higher effectiveness!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #107: Respect the gatekeeper

Welcome Professionals…

…Every VIP needs a gatekeeper. Everyone attracting a lot of attention and unsolicited business offers needs somebody filtering out the spam. They call them reception desk, personal assistant, or deputy, let’s call them gatekeeper for now.

Many people try to get access to VIPs directly. They ignore the gatekeeper and use tools and methods to bypass them. This is a mistake. For someone who installed a gatekeeper it can be very annoying to get unfiltered messages by email, text, whatsapp, social media and so on. For the gatekeeper it is annoying to be treated like an obstacle.

gatekeeper

Gatekeepers are usually a person of trust for VIPs. They have a lot of power to decide who is allowed to reach them, who receives a time slot and when. It is much wiser to respect their powerful role and collaborate with them. I remember a salesman that I met 12 years ago. He was from Germany and made a business trip to the US every year for two weeks. He only had these two weeks to meet his most important clients. How did he manage to meet everyone of his VIPs in only two weeks? He revealed his method to me. He had special gifts for the gatekeepers. On every trip, he brought an article of virtu – I think it was a specially designed espresso cup. The personal assistants were keen to receive the next collector’s item. This was his secret trick, he explained to me.

Actually I think the real reason for his success was something else. I do not believe in the pursuasive power of espresso cups. As a matter of fact, I perceived the salesman as someone who treated every person with the same level of respect. He was not only charmign – which he certainly was – he wholeheartedly loved to talk to people and did this with a true interest. I can imagine that he took the same interest into the lifes of the gatekeepers when he handed over his espresso cups. Honest interest and attention cannot be denied by no-one.

Treating every person with respect should be a self-evident virtue. It especially works well with gatekeepers since they get to deal with rude requests quite often.

Try it in your next call,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #091: Do it now!

Welcome Professionals…

…As my frequent readers already know, I am not able to use my right hand for writing at the moment and I use the dictation function of Siri instead. This led me to another discovery this week.

One of my least favorite work is transfering minutes into our CRM system and writing detailed reports on interviewed candidates. Whatever, it has to be done, despite all procrastination.

My usual procedure would be to take hand-written notes of interviews and collect them over time in my drawer. Then, when the delivery date of the reports comes close, I would set a time slot in my calendar for writing reports. I would pick a time early in the morning, when my personal reserve of will power is not yet fully depleted.stack of paper

Now, that stacking hand-written notes is not an option, I have changed my routine to dictating notes of meetings and phone calls immediately, so that I do not forget the essential information. I have done this as well with interview reports. Transcribing the key findings of some 90 minutes of intense conversation to a summary of 2 pages by using the dictation function of Siri.

What can I say: The actual writing (dictating in that case) is done in up to 50% less time. It is done right away without any procrastination. It feels better, because my files are up to date and I do not have to look at the daunting stack of paper all the time.

My learning is: Do the nagging tasks as soon as possible to get them out of my head and out of the way.

Feeling free,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #076: Ancient notebook

Welcome Professionals…

…Do you still keep a notebook? I am not talking about a laptop, I mean those hardcover books of white paper, sometimes bound in leather, sometimes with carved-in initials of the owner. Do you use these?

Despite the fact that we are oversupplied with computing power, I regularly see business people taking notes in a notebook made of paper. Everything is filed in there in chronological order. Meeting after meeting – regardless of the subject or project. It is a mystery to me how someone can find anything within these books. One would have to remember date and time of a certain subject and even then, one would have to go back through many pages, sometimes even moving to another notebook!

What is worse – it also implies carrying around a lot of useless weight. Either old pages with mostly completed tasks and outdated notes or just white sheets of paper. Sorry – other than for journaling or nostalgic handwriting enthusiasts I do not see the use of such notebooks in business life.

notebook

I keep a pad of paper on my desk in order to take initial handwritten notes during phone calls or meetings. I usually carry around about 5 key pages of work in process with me. Everything else is either transcribed into tasks in my calendar or information with follow-up dates in my CRM system.

For a while I tested the use of electronic notebook apps like evernote and others. But I actually do not get any added value out of those. Calendar and CRM work fine for me.

Which tools do you use to stay organized? Let us know with a comment to this post.

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #072: Getting ship done

Welcome Professionals…

…You all have probably heard about a famous quote that is often used in the context of teamwork and motivation. It goes like this:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men and women to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

There are several versions of this quote and most of the time it is associated with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who is best known internationally as the author of “Le Petit Prince”. I don’t know if he is the definite originator, but for sure I have heard this quote a thousand times.

ship

While the motivational saying sounds pursuading in general, I have never really seen this working in practice. Teams perform best when led by precise orders. Sure – go ahead an give your work some meaning! Every project leader shall feel blessed whose team is yearning for results.

But if this teaching “to yearn for the vast and endless sea” is all that a project leader does, odds are that team members spend endless hours at their desk yearning, without getting any tangible results. Or they pick the easiest jobs first, or they spent time in group discussions dividing the tasks themselves, or … – whatever.

If you want to get your ship done and you don’t have time to have the team figure it out by themselves, give clear and concise orders. Control work progress in a decent number of milestones. That’s the way to go!

Now I hope I get some push-back from the little prince lovers out there.

Good luck building your ship

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #025: Parkinson’s law

Welcome Professionals…

did you ever hear of Parkinson’s law? It states that:

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Although it was meant in a humorous way when first articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an essay published in The Economist in 1955, it is widely believed to be true. We all can think of examples proving the truth of this statement.

Parkinson's_Law_Book

It also applies to consulting work. It is one of the reasons why we operate under last minute pressure. It is also one important driver – though certainly not the only reason – why case teams work all night until complete exhaustion.

The only way that I found to work around Parkinson’s law is to set a thoughtful deadline and an allocated timeframe for each and every activity. I book working blocks for each task into my calendar and try to stick to it. I even reserve blocks for meals and free time. It works for me.

Have you found other ways? Let me know!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!