September 20, 2016

40 Better Hours day 2: Conquering email and rescuing meetings

“When you’re … buried in emails and going to meetings, you’re not really thinking beyond the day-to-day, minute-to-minute things that you have to do.” — Katie Hawkins-Gaar, Digital Innovation Faculty, The Poynter Institute

Hi there!
A lot of journalists come through Poynter’s doors. We love discussing ideas (and, let’s face it, gripes) with them about to improve work. More often than not, two big complaints come up in those conversations: pointless meetings and too much email.

We tackled those complaints in today’s video. Katie stepped in front of the camera, while Ren moved into the interviewer role. Together, we identified a number of tips and tactics for running better meetings and addressing your overflowing inbox.

These tips might seem deceptively easy. We hate to burst your bubble, but they're not. Just like yesterday’s concept of single-tasking, today’s topic requires that you build habits over time and, in many cases, push for a culture change within your team or company. That doesn’t happen overnight, but it is doable.

Thankfully, we're here to help. Got a daily meeting that's always terrible? Is your inbox full of unanswered emails from coworkers? Pop in for today’s Facebook Q&A with Katie at 1 p.m. Eastern to talk through it.

What works for you?
Here’s today’s challenge: If you’ve got tried-and-true advice on how to run better meetings or reduce the amount and pull of email, we’d love to hear it.

Share your best advice on Twitter with #40BetterHours (or you can share visually on Instagram with the same hashtag; we’re always fans of Post-It art!) or email us at We’ll share some of the best responses in tomorrow’s newsletter.

Single-tasking stories
Yesterday, we invited you to single-task by watching a 10-minute video and doing nothing else. Not surprisingly, that was a pretty tough ask.

“At first I was a little antsy watching @manoushz. The more she talked about emails the more I wanted to check my inbox,” broadcast reporter Liz Adeola posted on Twitter.

Allison Garber shared a relatable confession: “Shamefully, I found myself thinking ‘yes, this is great… I am focused… um, I should share this… Did I just get an email? Oh, I should read the email that came with this… They are asking for feedback, I will write it now while watching this… I am writing this while watching this.’ Clearly I need to work on this skill. She just started talking about the glucose switch. Yeah, I should listen.”

“Not going to lie, I had to stop myself from picking up my to-do list to see if there was anything I could do while watching the video,”
wrote Megan Hart of Topeka, Kansas. “I guess I’m pretty accustomed to having the TV or a YouTube video on in the background when I do something that doesn’t require my full attention, like making up my grocery list or deleting junk email.”

And three cheers for Jessica Arp for powering through. "Just watched #40BetterHours video. Checked time at 2min in. Took 2pg notes. Wanted to send a text. Threw a post-it away. Still loved it!"

Thanks for sharing your experiences, and bravo to all of you who made it through the challenge!

You’re doing great
Enjoy today’s video and pat yourself on the back for taking back control of your workday.

Now that you’ve read this email, feel free to delete it and breathe a sigh of relief. We totally get it.

Ren and Katie
Team #40BetterHours 

40 Better Hours was made possible by the generous support of Ruth Ann Harnisch and dozens of other supporters
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