The Tyranny of the Weekly Update

You can never get back lost time. Which is why many people end their workday feeling frustrated and stressed out – and then go home after work for a “second shift” after the kids go to bed so they can catch up. But where did all that unproductive time go? In my experience it likely went to a lot of weekly updates clogging the calendar.

Like the Tragedy of the Commons, the weekly update is a natural response to a finite, valuable, shared and “cost-free” resource – I refer to the time of decision-makers, influencers and resource-holders you need to accomplish your objectives.  The weekly update is how people “reserve” their fair share of this valuable resource, whether that time is actually needed in the moment or not. With everyone fighting for their fair share of others’ time, a doom loop of collectively mis-allocated time and destroyed productivity results.

If you are a leader or key decision-maker, try this experiment: eliminate all 1-1 updates for a month, except with your boss and your direct reports. You will find yourself much more available to those who need you when they need you, and you’ll have more time to work directly on your own priorities.

For more on the productivity-destroying impact of excessive meetings, see this: https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness.