I came across this blog post by Ramit Sethi about how he blocks out every Wednesday for “strategy time” where he thinks about the big picture and stays away from replying to emails. This reminded me of our War Room sessions that take place twice a week.
About 8 months ago, Sei-Wook and I started blocking out half a day for our Biz Dev War Room. Biz Dev is a bit of a misnomer because in addition to talking about prospective clients and business development activity, we also spent time discussing our processes, long term goals, and talent acquisition.
It was challenging to completely block out a 3-4 hour block during the day. Every other week, there seemed to be some big deadline or crisis that pulled us away from an uninterrupted session. We also had to remind each other to close out of our inbox and focus on the discussion. But whenever we managed to string together a few very focused hours of War Room, the results were immensely valuable.
We went on to create a Ops War Room where our Operations Manager Boram joins us for an uninterrupted session featuring discussions on HR, finance, culture, and recruiting. This, too, has been extremely helpful, and has enabled us to tackle tough topics like compensation, performance reviews, and team structure.
With over 50 War Room sessions under my belt, I’ve learned a few lessons on ways to make the most of the time:
- Prepare an agenda with detailed discussion topics; even better if there are estimates to how long you want to spend on each topic; review the agenda with the participants prior to the meeting
- Make sure someone is taking notes throughout the session; we share an Evernote notebook with each other and keep both agenda and notes in there
- Follow up on unfinished discussions from the previous week if you need to so that things aren’t left hanging
- Bringing in outside material (books, videos, articles) to discuss and relate to relevant topics can be inspiring and energizing
- No checking email
Setting aside time for non-urgent yet important initiatives is hard to do. The temptation to quickly troubleshoot an urgent issue can snowball into hours of emails, meetings, and calls. The solution, I believe, is to systematically reserve and protect blocks of time with disciplined vigilance. My hope is that I’ll inch ever closer to a day when the majority of my time is spent on long-term strategic initiatives rather than the day-to-day bustle dictated by urgent requests and deadlines.