How we work is as important as what we do. Looking back on the last couple of days, there were a number of meetings (some great, some not great), a bunch of informal conversations (part project related, part witty team banter), one very brief perusal of a management memo, and some sweet time for independent analysis and writing. All in all a good week made up mostly of activities I like or, at least, don't make have to muffle my screams in my cup of half-caff.
I believe the frustration (or exasperation some weeks) we all have from time to time is less about what we're working on and more about feeling not in control of how we spend our days.
I made this super simple model to think about percentage-wise how I've been spending my time at work. The categories are intentionally broad and the percentages are rough guesses. Precision wasn't the goal here.
I propose a quick exercise for next week. On Sunday night or Monday early, take a look at your calendar and assign rough percentages of anticipated time to the major categories-- meetings, informal communications, formal communications, and independent work. Proactively, make any adjustments you can to get the week more in line with your ideal "how."
Then, at the end of the week, do the same thing retrospectively. Where did obligations pop up, when did meetings take less or more time, were there more extra off-the-record chats with colleagues, etc. Any observations stand out? This first step in building personal awareness. The second is taking back some control of how we spend our time and better navigate the inevitable waves.
So, we all know this happens to us on a personal level but the same dynamic happens on our project teams-- with the impact magnified. Once we have a chance to observe the "how" for a little while, the alternations needed become more obvious and might look like a commitment to have fewer meetings, spend less time fooling with executive memos, more time tapping into informal communication challenges, and fencing off quiet, uninterrupted time for independent thinking.