Ah August, when on any given day, half your team is out for vacation (or, if you’re in Europe, possibly your entire team). While these weeks are often referred to as “the lazy days of summer,” we’ve found that the opposite can be true: fewer people in the office means fewer meetings and distractions, which makes it easier for us to do the heads-down work required to push important projects forward.
But even if you’ve managed to seize this late-summer productivity opportunity, how do you continue to make time for focused work when everyone returns? Or, if you went on vacation, how do you get back into the swing of things? A sense of progress is critical to motivation, boosts performance, and helps us make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Here are three scientifically-backed nudges to help you achieve important, big-picture milestones in any season.
Curb your meeting enthusiasm
When we have limited time between meetings (i.e. a “stripey” calendar), we usually spend it performing quick, less-important tasks. To give yourself a chance to do more focused work, schedule meetings in blocks. Bonus: Take a page out of Humu advisor Cass R. Sunstein’s book and limit your default meeting time to just 15 minutes.
Set thoughtful goals
As you identify new goals—or work towards existing ones—ask yourself if each of your goals meets these criteria: 1) Specific: Is the goal simple and clearly defined? 2) Measurable: How will you know when you’ve completed it? 3) Time bound: Is it linked to a timeframe that creates some urgency? An ambitious but achievable goal will push you to get things done.
Pause your pings
Each time you stop working to respond to an incoming email or notification, you risk reducing your productivity—and increasing the amount of time it takes to pick up where you left off. Make a list of the notifications that distract you during focused work—email, social channels, text messages. The next time you get busy, refer to that list and pause/mute/close all notifications.
Try it the Humu way
Here are a few things we do to ensure that we make progress on meaningful tasks:
Ben Huggins, who leads our design efforts, keeps his mornings clear for deep work on difficult creative problems (this is his most productive time) and leaves meetings and logistics for the afternoon.
To help herself focus, Megan Gao, a member of our Partner Experience team, lists three specific things outside of her routine tasks that she wants to accomplish each day.
To give himself time to concentrate on trickier, more involved projects, engineer John Agnew tries to keep one day a week free of meetings.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers
Each month, we pick a question from a reader and offer tactical tips on how to handle their particularly thorny work-related issue. (If you’d like advice, let us know by replying to this email!) Avner wrote in to ask: As a leader, how can I help my team feel safe giving me honest feedback?
A useful tip from our People Scientist Tom Skiba: “Employees need to believe that leadership wants to help them,” he writes. “Senior leaders should make it a habit to informally check-in with employees across levels and ask, ‘Which changes do you think are working, and which ones are not? Is something visibly different?’” Read more from Tom on our blog (and pro-tip: follow Humu on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to get the latest).
What’s happening at Humu:
Intentional daily actions are the building blocks of workplace culture—especially at Humu. Read about four of our team’s most treasured norms, and how we make them habits.
It’s the summer of Humu! We were named in Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for HCM Tech and as one of their newest Cool Vendors for Employee Experience; our co-founder Jessie Wisdom was among Fortune Magazine’s 2019 40 Under 40, where she also shared a few of her top productivity-enhancing tips; our CEO Laszlo Bock talked about nudges, making work better, and why we offer a year of parental leave on Bloomberg TV and spoke to The Wall Street Journal about why privacy matters far more than most HR vendors and departments think. In his words, “You don’t have to hook every employee up to an MRI to find out how to make them work better.” We couldn’t agree more!
On the speaking front, Laszlo will be at Behavioural Exchange in London (along with Humu advisors Cass R. Sunstein and Katy Milkman), Machine Learning Privacy Lead Aleatha Parker-Wood is co-chairing the USENIX Security and AI Networking Conference, and several of our engineers are excited to head to this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration (email email@example.com if you’ll be there and would like to meet).