The Effective Executive

Chrometa Effective Executive review

                                                                          Be effective, not busy!

What sounds like the memorable “Don’t think! Feel!” Bruce Lee line is actually the main lesson from Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive. I recently read this classic after finding out it was the number one book recommendation by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Feel!, don't think!

The book is concise and starts with the good news: effectiveness can be learned.
In it, Drucker explains that in his forty-five years of experience he has never seen a natural effective leader or executive. Effectiveness is a skill and we learn it the same way we learn any skill: practice, practice and practice some more. He even lays out the five habits we need to acquire to become more effective.

Habit number one: “Know thy time”

Our most valuable asset is time. Almost anything that is lost can be gained back: money, friendships, health… Once we lose time, it’s gone forever; so, we must learn to optimize it. Drucker lays out the three time management principles: Track, Manage and Consolidate.
Contrary to popular belief, we must track before planning. Tracking our time will reveal the time wasting activities, all those periods of time when we’re not in “Deep Work”mode (another great book by Cal Newport, by the way), checking our emails for the 10th time, toggling between the draft document we have to send and the latest headline from our favorite news website….
At this point I can’t help mentioning Chrometa!
Chrometa will do just that: give you insight on what you and your team are actually doing, shed light on the billable work while also showing an unbiased tally of distractions.

Feel!, don't think!

Distraction is unfortunately the norm, not the exception. According to this survey, the average worker wastes up to three hours a day. That’s 759 hours each year!
This is not only affecting business revenue but also employee motivation, which has a cost in the long run.
Once we have a clear picture of our time, we need to find out how to better manage it. This starts with eliminating all the time wasters.  In the words of Tai Lopez: “Double down on what works, crush what doesn’t!”
And finally consolidate: we must create large time blocks during which we focus on one single activity, which is what Drucker calls “deep work”. I was actually surprised to find out that Drucker recommends half a day to two weeks of deep work. Then I remembered that my most productive days are those when I worked on one thing only, until completion.

 

Habit number two: “What can I contribute?”

To be effective, we must ask ourselves: what should we be effective at? What is expected from us in our job, by our customers, coworkers or hierarchy? And how are our actions going to benefit others? Answering these questions helps us define the “why” of business strategy:
How are we adding value to our customers?
How are we keeping our employees motivated, happy and productive?
How are we increasing the owner’s return on investment?

 

Habit number three: “Making Strength Productive”

Abraham Lincoln famously said that “if the only weakness of General Grant is him drinking then I will gladly send him a case of his favorite drink, just as long as he keeps on winning”. In today’s world, this translates into assigning the most qualified person to each position. Rather than trying to minimize any weaknesses among our teams, we should maximize the existing strengths until all weaknesses become irrelevant.

Lincoln Grant Drink

Obviously there are some weaknesses that need to be addressed, chief among them are the lack of integrity and character.
 

Habit number four: “First Things First”

This habit is so powerful that Stephen Covet mentions it in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and wrote a whole book titled First Things First. It’s a simple and powerful habit: do the first things first, second things? Not at all!
To get into “Deep Work” mode during the long time chunks Drucker recommends, we need to put all our focus and energy in getting the most important thing done. It means being clear about our priorities and acting on them. This is easier said than done, but with practice and some simple tools, we can master this habit. I particularly like the “Time Management Matrix” (aka “Eisenhower Matrix”, after the 34th President of the United States who created this matrix; Stephen Covey later popularized it with “The 4 Quadrants” technique)
The general idea is to categorize your planned activities within one of the four quadrants in the illustration below.

Productivity Quadrant

QUADRANT 1 (Q1):  urgent AND important
Examples include: fire drills, deadlines, client/deal emergency, etc.
Best practice: avoid by being proactive (Q2) and manage effectively & efficiently once the Q1 event arises.
QUADRANT 3 (Q3):  urgent, time-consuming, but with no real purpose or tangible result
Q3 events typically lead to frustration, fatigue and a sense of uselessness
Examples include: email interruptions, useless reports, long-winded meetings, etc.
Best practice: avoid completely.
QUADRANT 4 (Q4): complete time-wasters
An hour spent in Q4 is an hour gone with nothing of value contributed to yourself or anyone else
Examples include: TV, gossip, social media, pointless Youtube videos
Best practice: include (for a “mental break”) but limit extensively.
QUADRANT 2 (Q2): This is where you want to spend most of your time. It’s pro-active and value-additive to yourself and your environment (work, family, social circles).
Examples include:productive work,quality time with friends and family, proactivity, meditation, working out, proper nutrition, relationship building, reading & education, creativity, etc.
Best practice: spend the vast majority of your time in Q2.
This is obviously a simplified way to categorize activities as each task could also be judged by the level of required effort, available resources (delegating work to your staff for example), complexity etc. It is good to notice thoughthat we usually spend so much time and energy in Q1 that we get burned out and seek relaxation in Q4. So next time we found ourselves in Q4, let’s quickly shift to Q2.

And finally habit number five: “Better decision making”

I dreaded reading this chapter at first. Business articles about decision-making processes tend to be complex, long and boring but this one was a nice surprise and could be summed up in three words: Less is More.
Drucker states that effective executives make fewer decisions by identifying what he calls “Boundary Conditions”. In layman’s terms it means to find the one decision that makes the rest easier or irrelevant.
Drucker relays the story of New York power outages in 1965. One night, The New York Times had to move their printing over to New Jersey. This left them with only an hour and a half to print the papers. However, just as the paper was going to press, the executive editor and his assistants began arguing about the hyphenation of a single word. This argument took 48 minutes to resolve, so, in the end, only half of the press run could be completed. While to most this seems like an egregious waste of time, the boundary conditions of the paper were: The New York Times is the standard-bearer for American English grammar. In this light, the decision was correct and aligned with the values of the organization.
What a great way to end the book: boundary conditions help us make effective decisions once (and only once) as we concentrate our energy (first things first) on making our strengths so strong we make the best contribution to our organization.
So join us here to identify your time wasters (dreaded Q4 quadrant) and take an honest look at how you and your team spend the day, plan accordingly and play on your team’s strengths to make this an effective and happy day!

Turn your correspondence with clients into billable hours

Email to Billable hours

 

Based on millions of billable hours collected by Chrometa (approaching
1 billion 🙂 ),
our research team found that email reading and writing accounts for up to a third of the total billable time.

Chrometa records time spent reading, replying and composing emails from any device, whether you are using

Outlook
,
Gmail or MacMail.

Then a rule is applied to file the email under a client or project. This is the step that we recently removed to
make timekeeping at painless as possible.

Automatic Timesheet

Clients and Projects can have email addresses and phone numbers. When you add/update and email address to a
client/project, Chrometa will automatically move time entries with the email address to the client.

Same thing applies to phone numbers, phone calls and text messages sent or received from your clients are
automatically filed under the client’s timesheet.

All this is done through an auto generated rule: For each phone number and email address, a rule is created and
applies to new entries. As with any rule, it can be
applied to past entries.

When you remove an email address, Chrometa stops moving time entries to the project

Timesheets from the past

Outlook from the past in Chrometa; Credit: slamiticon

Microsoft Outlook activity has always been a good indicator of how much time you spend working on a project or matter: the work you do on any given day is very often linked to the emails you read and compose; the meetings in Outlook calendar are time spent working for a client.

With the Chrometa add-in for Outlook, time spent on emails you are reading, composing or replying to is automatically captured.

Now what if you wanted to go back in time, i.e. before Chrometa was on your PC? Well, thanks to Outlook exports, this is now possible!

When an Outlook app – such as Outlook 2016 – is installed on your computer, you can use it to move emails, contacts, and calendar items from one email account to another. With Chrometa, you can use this export feature to create a timesheet. Here’s how:

First export Outlook items by creating a .pst file, which is an Outlook Data File that contains your messages and other Outlook items and is saved on your computer. You can select the primary Inbox or any other folder (filtered by an email address for e.g., or a date range …)

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Outlook Data File.
  2. Click Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst), and then click OK.
  3. In the Create or Open Outlook Data File dialog box, in the File name box, type a name for the file, and then click OK.

Select then the pst file in Chrometa: Click on “PST File”
And finally click on “Process” , your emails are now time entries in Chrometa!

To turn on automatic categorization, add email addresses to your Chrometa clients and Chrometa will assign each email to the correct client.