A client who leads a large team now 100% remotely, asked me this: “How can I make work easier in 2021 for my teams, my peers and even myself?”
I paused for a minute, with no simple answers in sight, and no obvious easy button in a time that’s been hard for so many.
But as we talked further, I realized there’s one strategy that’s always worth trying: the strategy of experiments.
Now is the perfect time to try an experiment. Change always creates a window of opportunity to rethink old habits and test out new ones, and people open their mind to new possibilities and ways of doing things. If you need proof of that, examine your own life at work: are you working the same way you were two years ago? For most of us, the answer is no.
Whether you think of them as experiments, pilots, or test runs, these little steps become low risk/high reward strategies that allow you to try out new ways of doing your work—sometimes changing how you think about your work, too.
Here’s a set of experiments for you to consider as you think about how to make work easier in 2021. Each test can lead you to fresh discoveries that still get the same—or even better—results. So why wait?
Make Work Easier: 8 Experiments to Save Time, Money & Stress
First, Not Sure How to Get Started? Use This Script
An experiment to make work easier in 2021 will works best when everyone’s in on the game.
As a leader, you always want to be clear, honest, and specific about what you’re trying to do. Here’s a script you can use:
“I know we’re all looking for ways to create more time in our days so we get more of what matters done. So, for the next three months, I’d like to try an experiment. Starting on DATE 1 and ending on DATE 2, we’ll [fill in experiment details from one of the items below.]
It may work; it may not! But no matter what happens, I expect this experiment will give us other ideas about how to make work easier in 2021 and still get the results we want. On DATE 2, we’ll regroup and decide how to move forward using the lessons we’ve learned.
Thanks as always for your contributions to our team, and I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts and observations as we experiment together.”
Make sure that DATE 2—your experiment’s end date—is on your calendar, and that you’ve already reserved time to reflect and make the decisions to continue, alter, or stop the experiment totally.
Now, choose your experiment!
Experiment 1: Cancel a Regularly Scheduled Meeting
Are there regularly scheduled meetings that you’re responsible to lead? Open your calendar and make a quick list.
- Which one’s become a habit, not a need?
- Trust your gut on this one–you KNOW where you and your team have fallen into slumpy patterns.
ACTION: Cancel that meeting for the next three months.
Then, book 15 minutes on your calendar three months from now to review these questions:
- What have we missed by not having the XYZ meeting?
- What are we doing instead?
- What do I need to do now?”
In my unscientific poll of coaching clients, more than 80% of the meetings they cancel as an experiment go away forever . . . and no one notices.
Experiment 2: Change How You’re Holding a Meeting
A huge way to make work easier in 2021 is to stop assuming all of your meetings or team conversations need to be on video.
Zoom (or Teams or WebEx or FaceTime, whatever your tool of choice) is great for some meetings. But do you need to use it for every meeting? Absolutely not.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
ACTION: Pick a current video meeting and move it to conference call format (no video).
I highly suggest you do this with any one-on-one meetings you have. Believe me, you are not picking up body language in a video call—not if you and the other person are using the technology appropriately ,and looking into the camera, not the screen.
The phone is still the one technology that we can access from anywhere, anytime. Just step away from your computer and be present with the voice and you’ll magically pick up information based on tone, pace, and energy that you’d never discover on video.
Experiment 3: Reduce Hour Meetings to 45 Minutes
Did you know that most meetings are scheduled for an hour because that’s how the original calendaring technology set it up? And yet, we still repeat the pattern without thinking.
Time to take control of your time once again.
ACTION: For the next three months, change all of your hour-long meetings to 45 minutes.
Feeling bold? Try 30 minutes. See if it revs up the energy, forces participants (and you!) to plan ahead and to be more concise.
Experiment 4: Keep the Countdown Visible
ACTION: Use a countdown clock in your meeting: on your phone, or even projected on a shared screen.
Using a countdown tool can help you stay on track for the other experiments where you’re reducing meeting time. Or, you can keep original timed meetings, but use a countdown to help others see how much longer the meeting is going than planned.
You’ll find several tools to use online, or just use the alarm on your phone or an old fashioned kitchen timer that rings!
Experiment 5: Stop the Info-Only Meetings
A good meeting is typically not a report. A good meeting is a conversation, discussion, and exchange of ideas.
If your calendar is filled with meetings where you’re just there to listen and not to contribute, it’s time to experiment with how your time may be put to better use elsewhere.
ACTION: Decide to stop attending meetings where you’re just gathering info and not contributing.
Instead, book a ten minute call with someone in the meeting and debrief on the key topics. Offer to do the same for them next time.
Worried that the meeting leader might feel offended or insulted that you aren’t finding the meeting of value? It might be time for an honest conversation (scripts here on How to Say Hard Things to Good People.)
Experiment 6: Replace Something Written with Audio or Video
Are you someone who often needs to write a report, summary email, or create some kind of presentation that shares your knowledge with others in your organization–but you HATE to write?
ACTION: Replace one of those written reports, summaries or presentations with a video or audio instead.
Just turn on your device and tell the story as if you were in person:
- Here’s the main topic;
- Here’s what you need to know,
- Here’s my recommendation;
- Here’s the next action;
Speaking your thoughts instead of writing them out often can take half the time–especially if writing’s not your jam.
It’s often more effective in getting your points heard and understood, too.
- If your phone doesn’t have a built-in recorder, search “voice recorder apps” and find one that works with your particular device. I use Voice Recorder on my iPhone, and QuickTime on my Mac Air.
- Tools like Loom and Zoom allow you to record yourself quickly, too.
- File too big to email? Use a free shared service such as Google Docs or Dropbox, and you can send them a private link.
- For video, YouTube allows you to create an unlisted link, which can only be found by people with the specific link.
Experiment 7: Make Writing Easier with Transcription
Are you a more natural speaker than writer, but still need to provide something in writing? Embrace the world of transcription apps, which are on the market more each day.
ACTION: Speak your report or summary out loud and record it as an MP3 file.
Upload the file for free to an app like otter.ai, and download a rough transcript of what you’ve said.
Use that transcript to jumpstart your written report so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Experiment 8: Stop Doing Work that Doesn’t Matter.
Does everything on your to-do list speak to your superpower space? Or if that to-do went away, would anyone notice?
ACTION: Review your project list (or software if you have it, such as Trello or Basecamp). What work are you or others regularly doing that you’re no longer sure matters? Stop doing (or requesting) that work for three months.
For example, what reports does your team complete weekly, monthly or quarterly that no one uses to make decisions? What updates do you make weekly to projects that only need attention each quarter?
Work changes quickly, and efforts that may have mattered a year ago may not matter as much now. Find the potential waste, and see what happens when you drop it.
Plus, a Bonus Experiment, Just for You
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or close to burnout, this experiment’s for you.
ACTION: Take a look at your to-do list, and ask yourself: “What’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
In Gary Keller & Jay Papasan’s great book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” (affiliate link),
Focus on that first. Say no to other things.
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