If you’re joining RW this week, I’m going to try to keep us focused on a recent Charter interview with Executive Coach Katia Verresen. It resonated with me — as it likely will with some of you — because of the way Verresen so clearly seeks to support creative and meaningful work. I want to savor the interview, and I suggest you do the same.
To facilitate that process, I’m going to leave some focused notes below. (All quoted material comes from Verresen.) Give these suggestions a try or at least carry them around with you and hold them up against your day-to-day reality. You can then read the whole interview over the weekend*.
- For meeting schedulers: Consider starting every meeting 5 minutes after the hour. In tandem, encourage attendees to use those 5 minutes to disengage from prior tasks and to take a few breaths before your meeting. This scheduling move seems important to me not only because it might slow down the pace of the day, but also because it could improve meetings by giving people a rhythm around preparing for them. I’m not simply talking about “reading the agenda” or the memo in advance; I’m talking about preparing one’s mind and body for the tasks, and team, ahead.
- If people go back-to-back, from meeting to meeting to commitment to engagement, “cognitive drag lasts about 23 minutes.” Not good. See the previous bullet point.
- How to use an hour (when you’re not in a meeting): “When we’re doing deep thinking work, 52 minutes is very good for us. More than that and we start to flag.” So that’s 50 – 55 minutes on-task, followed by a break. I’ve been saying this same thing for 30 years because a teacher I had in 8th grade once told us to do our homework that way. “Work for 50 minutes,” she said, “then do whatever the heck you want for 10 minutes. Then, make sure you stop your break at 10 minutes and get back to work.” For some reason I believed her, and I used my trusty Casio watch to time my splits. To this day, when I’m really in a groove, I naturally break up my hours this way.
- Move before solving: “After we workout, we have greater focus and clarity for up to two hours.” This principle is worth considering, especially if the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t urgent or you aren’t up against a deadline. As I said at the start, the goal in savoring this particular article is to hold ideas — like “after we workout” — up to reality, especially if you’re feeling lackluster about your current processes or outcomes or both. What’s the worst that could happen? And the best?
- On pausing, if just for 10 seconds: “We have to remember that we are biological humans and there are very simple things like moving our neck, looking around, and locating ourselves in the day that suit our social nervous system. It registers safety. It takes less than 10 seconds.”
- On celebrating even the small wins: “When [high performers] reach their goals, they move on and completely dismiss what they’ve created. That’s disrespectful of their work and their team. It’s really important to pause, reflect, and celebrate that we went from zero to one with a journey in between so that we can capture the wisdom, the learnings, and the richness of the experience. That way, it’s easier to create and go after our next challenge.”
*Of course you can just skip my notes and read the whole interview whenever you want. But my point in designing this post in the way that I did is to work with people’s habits. If you show up here every day looking for something new, you’re going to find the same thing for a few days this week. The only way to make it new is to make yourself new.