Ep. 169: Michael Teape - Win Back One Day of Your Time with Productive Work!
Welcome back to Count Me In,
IMA's podcast about all things affecting
the accounting and finance world.
This is your host, Adam Larson,
and you're now listening to
episode 169 of our series.
Today's featured guest is Michael Teape.
Michael is the owner and lead
training consultant for Teape Training
He is a thought leader in people
development who brings over 25 years of
corporate learning and development
experience across multiple industries.
He enjoys running the trainer
events for facilitators globally,
and works with senior leadership teams
to improve their working relationships
and outward facing impact in the
organization. In this episode,
Michael focuses on time management and
building a culture around working smarter
and focusing on productive work. To
kick things off Michael addresses,
how you can win back one whole
day of your time per week.
So keep listening to hear more as we
head over to the conversation now.
So one of the things that,
I know you really talk about
is how to win back one day
of your team's time every single
week. And when I read that at first,
I thought that was pretty
ambitious. If you break it down,
we have accounting listeners,
20% of the week is free.
You know, I knew you'd be talking about
figures, Mitchell since we got started.
That's right. So, you know,
I just want to know your
perspective on this.
How do you go about achieving
such kind of time management?
Well, there's multiple streams
of how you do that. And yeah,
people are like 20%. They always
raise their eyebrows when I say that,
but truly there's a couple
of things you can do.
And you know, we work on, first of all,
are you actually efficiently working
the time you're in the office or
the time you're working at home,
you know, working on a strategy or,
you know, a piece of technical
work. In an hour, you know,
how effective are you? So I ask everybody,
including your listeners.
The one question is,
how effective are you in that hour?
Are you really being productive?
And I've got it down to under,
I can do in 20 minutes to 30
minutes what you could do in an
hour. You can get that down to
half that time. If you focus,
you know exactly what you're
working on and you're in the zone,
you're just thinking about this research.
You're just looking up the strategy.
You're just crafting it. If you're not
interrupted by the noise of the world,
emails, iPhones, Androids,
there's just so much going on.
People interrupting you all the time.
If you create a bubble,
it's amazing what you can
write in 30 to 45 minutes.
So that's one of the
biggest parts of it is can I
get more out of an hour? And
I guarantee you can. So focus,
good planning, prioritizing, knowing
what you are doing for that 20 minutes.
And then the other part
of it is brain chemistry.
So is understanding how you work.
You've heard the thing
you've probably heard before.
What's your best time of the
day, or people often say, oh,
I'm best mid morning, evening.
They'll offer that quite freely.
So they know they're thinking about it.
And it's using those times to
do your more difficult work.
Your more heavy thinking, research work.
And then using the times, you know,
you're not sufficient actually doing
something that activates your body,
something either physical
or the boring, easy work,
replying to emails. We'll talk,
I'm sure we'll talk about emails.
Everyone's always got a question
about, that's a whole subject on,
how do you look at emails?
How do you deal with them?
You've got a think of it as a strategy.
So there's so much you can do even.
So if you're working with others
as well. So that was individual.
If you're working with a team, is
how effective are your meetings? Most
of the startups that I work with,
they never hold a meeting more than
30 minutes. Yeah. So you can imagine,
even with their clients, they've
got their clients in tune.
We get into the conversation. We're 10,
15 minutes in people start getting
really serious, real quick.
They get to the point. And if
we need to book some more time,
what's it about we're going to do that.
So rather than letting a
meeting roll on and on and on,
I don't recommend that if your
first meeting a client, you know,
from this strategic point of view,
but once you've got to know a client,
they will appreciate the fact.
You can get things done in half
an hour instead of an hour.
So you you're shaving time by
getting more done in the time.
And where does your team
spend the time together?
You don't need to attend
an update meeting.
It's just a waste of time An update
meeting is just somebody else reading out
what you could have read on
a document and in an email.
It's what are we going to
do with it? Let's cut that.
Did you all get the update? Yes. Great.
What are your thoughts on it? Boom.
I've just shaved 15 minutes of
time off your meeting, right?
So there are so many different aspects
to it. And I, you know,
the overarching piece,
I would say there's three things
to consider. One is your mindset.
So knowing what's going on
here, how you approach work,
you've heard growth
mindset and fixed mindset.
So that working on that piece.
So you're connected as quickly as
possible to your work. Secondly,
is choosing goals, productivity
tools that work for you for
your work. And you personally,
there is no point using tools
that you is hard work for you,
or you don't get, feel excited
to be using. I know I used,
excited and organizational tools in
the same sentence, but without that,
you've got to pick tools that gonna
work for the work you do and suit you
personally. And, and lastly,
get good about your time and your
rituals is rituals and routines
are fantastic. If you can set them up
to you rather than let them happen.
So if you finish a piece of work
today, all of your listeners,
next piece of work, you finish, focus
on what you're doing afterwards.
What are you doing? Do you just sit back?
Do you look at the phone
or are you actually okay.
I'm physically taking a couple of minutes,
then I'm going to get into my
next piece. I am going to get up,
walk around the desk, grab
a coffee, change my mood,
get some energy going and
boom, straight back into it.
Cause I guarantee once you finish
one piece of work, oh, yeah.
You're like, oh good. That's over. And
then you waste a good amount of time,
relaxing, pat yourself on the back,
subconsciously looking at your emails
before you get into to the next piece.
And before you know it, you've lost
time as well. So do you see from that,
just that alone,
you're able to save 20% of your
time and your team's time. Yeah.
Just in those areas there.
That's, it's very interesting.
And you mentioned a lot of things
that I did want to bring up,
through this conversation, but it kind
of all ties back to this, you know,
this old phrase and everybody's heard
it, everybody's used it, you know,
you want to work smarter, not harder.
And it sounds so cliche,
so much easier, you know,
said than done for many people, I
believe when it comes to time management.
So as far as working smarter, you know,
you mentioned some tools potentially,
or just mindset, but you know,
best practices, you know,
maybe just going a little bit
deeper into what you talked about,
how can people really work smarter
and not harder to be this, you know,
to save this 20%?
Yeah, Mitchell, working smarter,
not harder is a cliche and everyone
goes, oh yeah, work smarter not harder.
And then they nod their heads and then
they walk off and have no idea what you
meant. It's like, OK. And they go
back to doing what they did before.
So you need something that's
going to stop you from going back
to just randomly looking your email.
Cause you've got the email flashed up,
you know, a notification came in,
a notification from your calendar.
So you need some kind of
planner, really. You need,
a planner for your mindset
at the beginning of the day.
I use the one I recommend to get you in
the right mindset of really wanting to d
rive a business forward. You know,
if you're designing strategy
of your business, right,
you're a business partner,
you're building a business. You
really have to be like, right.
I'm here for a purpose. And I use the,
High Performance Planner by a
gentleman called Brendan Brushard.
He's one of those life coaches.
He's like Tony Robbins level,
can be a little bit too
enthusiastic. I'm just kidding.
But his tools are fantastic. And I have
it right here on the desk behind me,
my planner, and what it is is, it's an
old fashioned planner. You open it up,
but it gives you some
focus around, you know,
what your mindset for the day, my purpose.
You know, I can actually just give you
an example, I suppose, just right here.
Why not? You wanted practical
- morning mindset. You know,
what's a one thing I can get excited
about today. Those kind of things.
Thinking about someone who needs
me to be on the A game today.
One bold action I could take today.
To see these are all getting your
mindset into a, doing forward state,
ready to challenge the day. And you know,
in that you should really be looking at
that before you start any of your work.
So if you know, you're going to be busy
at nine, I've got some bad news for you.
You need to up before that, if
your meetings start at nine,
you need to be starting a little
bit earlier to get yourself right,
ready to go at nine o'clock.
So that's one of the things,
or whatever time of day you start.
And then at the end of the day,
you need to create some kind of ritual
because you can't be on all the time.
You know, we get stress, you hear
burn out, particularly during COVID.
You know, we don't have enough
people now working for us.
There's a recruitment
disaster around the corner.
Using strong words here. But at
the end of the day, is that okay?
How do I switch off quickly?
In order to get to my own personal
work or whatever I need to do, fitness,
whatever it is, and you need something
that's going to close it off.
So a reflection tool is what you
need and the high performance planner
has that built into it. And, that talks
about, well, what look back on the day,
just for five minutes, what's a
task that I handled really well,
who benefited from a discussion with me?
Who did I get energy from?
And there's a scorecard and productivity
and all those wonderful things.
So I do this myself. And I'll be
honest. I don't do it every day,
but I do it at least three times
a week. And the energy I get,
gives you that that mindset, but then
you've got to use a practical tool.
So that's a mindset tool, and
there's lots of them out there.
You can look up if you just
Google them, mindset tools,
and daily set up, you'll find
those. But the other one is,
actually the work you're going to do.
And you need some kind of one
pager, like a productivity planner.
And that will list out quite simply what
the main things that I need to get done
strategically. And then you can
work on the next steps, like, okay,
what are the five key things I need
to do in order to achieve that overall
objective? Because these are what they
call big, hairy goals. They're like, Ooh,
you look at it and go, oh yes,
I must do my business strategy.
And on my five year target and
increase business by 50% next year.
Sounds lovely. I'm going to go and
get a cup of coffee. Thank you.
And then I'll look at my emails
and I'll do something tactical.
Because I have no idea how
I'm going to achieve that.
So productivity planner allows you to
break it down into tasks, chunk it down,
and then you can prioritize
what you're going to do today.
Put it on a planner, put it on your
calendar as if it was a meeting.
So this half an hour,
I'm going to be working on X because I
know that's an action plan to get my big
goal achieved and not overloading
yourself. There's so many tips in here,
Mitchell, that I'm thinking
of, but that's the thing,
not overloading yourself
with 50 things to do.
Pick five solid things that will make a
big difference to your strategies that
you're trying to build
for the organization and
leave time for the personal
stuff as well. So they're the
two things I would work on.
That's really interesting. And thank
you for sharing the names of the tools.
I think that's certainly helpful.
You know, I do some similar things,
but you're giving me a lot to think about
as far as how I can improve and take
that to the next level. You know, one of
the things we've talked about already,
and we're all guilty of it, but as far
as you know, just some of this busy work,
you know, we see these emails come
in and it's got to be important.
I have to answer it right
now. When in reality,
it's kind of taking away
from that productive work
that you were just probably
in the midst of doing so as
far as that problem goes,
how do you go about implementing some
kind of solution to really chunking
the time? And you know, we can address
the email dilemma or really, you know,
I think a lot of it is as you said the
iPhones and the different social media
and the things that are
always at our fingertips.
So how do we solve that problem?
there is an addiction problem with having
your phone tell you whenever you've
got an email,
tell you whenever you've got a meeting
and what next on your calendar.
So you've got all of
these messages coming in.
I challenge people to switch
them all off. Switch it all off.
Yeah. Don't have notifications
coming in instead set
times when you're going
to check your email. Yeah.
You don't need to check your
calendar every five seconds. Yeah.
If you're thinking, oh, what have
I got this, check at lunchtime.
What have I got this afternoon? Next
three hours. Yeah. Check in the morning.
What have I got coming up?
You should, it's in there.
You don't need to know it every
time one of your meetings pings up,
it just interrupts your thought
process and emails are the same.
whenever I suggest particularly
email to executives,
switch off the notification,
they're like, well,
what if somebody wants to get hold of me?
They go straight to this panic
stage of like, whoa, whoa, whoa.
It's very important. Yes.
I know it's important.
And I know business is
very important. However,
we don't need to give an instant response.
So a way of dealing with this saying,
okay, I will check email at
certain times throughout the day.
And start small, you know,
start like write down. Okay.
time now for arguments sake. It's
2:00 PM now, right at the top,
2:20 email on top of whatever your notes,
you got tiny little thing at 2:20, I'm
going to check the email, switch it up,
close it down, switch off notifications.
And that's how we stop getting
the busy. What are it is,
is email is nothing more than a place
for other people to put their priorities
on you. That's all it is.
We should be using email for
two things. And two things only.
One is looking for who we are waiting for
information on to help us complete our
work. So if I'm waiting
for someone, you know,
I go into email just to check if I heard
back from this person, this person,
this point. No. Okay. Do they need a
chase? Send them a quick chaser. Done.
That's one use of email
and the second is to see
when new work comes in or updates come in.
So when new pieces of work come in, you
put them on your prioritization planner,
you look at how you're going to fit it in.
You're booking some time to look
at it, if it's a big project. Yeah.
And there's some great work by, for
that kind of stuff, by Dave Allen,
have you heard of, Getting Work Done?
He's been around for many decades.
Yeah. And, he's got some really
good tools I have to say.
And I'll use a lot of those executive
tools and all different levels in
that, but you've got to be
prepared to make a process.
Your day has to turn into
a process. So, you know,
email's a real problem.
Because you just start answering an
email and then you're answering the next
email and you get tired
and you're like, oh, look,
there's a special offer for a case of
wine or a golfing adventure, you know,
whatever. Oh, and then you look
at it and you click on the link.
You look at the page and
before, you know, it,
you're dreaming about going to
California pebble beach or something on
this all inclusive resort, and
play some golf next summer.
You know, you wasted,
your focus is completely gone and
you've also wasted physical time.
So you see where I'm going with that?
It's, you got to make it a process.
Otherwise it doesn't work.
Absolutely. It makes total sense.
And like I said, posing the question.
I think we're all guilty of it.
I think we can all relate to
similar situations probably sometime
this week, if not today, but you
know, just kind of taking a step back,
everything you're talking about,
as far as an individual goes,
it certainly makes a lot of sense.
And I think you can improve a lot of
your own personal time management using
some of the strategies you've shared,
but I think there's also a team
component to this that needs to be
addressed. Right. You know, if
one person is making progress,
but no one else is
respecting that progress.
You're going to be fighting
a little battle here.
So what is your recommendation
as far as, you know,
maybe as a leader or as
an individual contributor,
who's trying to shift the
culture of the team to, you know,
support these initiatives. How do you
go about doing something like that?
I think that
the culture is hugely important across
the team. Hugely important. Because with,
like you said,
if only one or two
people are not doing this
well, then it all falls in.
So one of the techniques a
leader should do is to bring the
team together and agree what,
prioritization tools or communication
tools we're going to use on a project, or,
getting a list of clients
together. You know,
this is the systems we're going to use.
This is how we're going to go about it.
And another thing is to get
them to brainstorm together,
ask them about,
in order to achieve whatever it is
the strategy is we need to have done
X, Y, and Z.
So we need to have worked out whether
this real issue for our clients,
what the competition is
doing, updating our lists,
getting a communication
message. So all of those tasks,
but what I asked you to do as a
leader to get the team together,
to brainstorm and think, well, these
are all the stages we need to do.
Get some kind of ownership on a
bigger project that everyone has a
part to play. And they understand this
is our process. And we are going to put,
times and dates and people's
names to it. You know,
there's Racy is one example
of a project management tool.
You put people's responsibility,
who's accountable for it.
Who's responsible for getting it done,
just to get them all on the same page.
Now it may seem your wasting time to
start with, but what you're doing,
you're setting up to save time
through the rest of that six months,
where you're trying to build a business.
Where you're trying to get
more partners involved,
a new system in place, a
new marketing approach. You
can imagine that if you don't
have the team on the same page,
so that's one thing highly
recommend that you do.
The other thing is that is
making sure that if you are not
the only person doing work on yourself,
about how you stay productive mindset,
manage your time is share
that with everybody. If you
are leaders, share, look,
this is what I'm doing. And
talk about expectations.
My expectation of you is to also look
at your work and how you're performing.
So you don't have people sitting
in jobs thinking, well, it's okay.
I just do the standard set needed,
as a management, as an accountant,
you know, those, I don't just do that.
I know that my expectation is to
contribute and grow this business,
make it more efficient,
There's so much automation out
there, for this type of industry,
as well as how we
communicate emails, you know,
how you can get a VIP list so that
people you're waiting for it highlights
and tells you that.
But he won't tell you about all the
other rubbish that comes into your email
So sharing those ideas and
asking the others, well,
what are you trying?
What are you doing in order to
be as productive as possible?
Sharing the thought, I thought about
cutting meetings down to half an hour.
What do you think? You know? So yeah,
if you're gonna have a team meeting
anyway, cut out the updates.
I expect people to read the update,
comment on that and then spend some
productive time how we're going to work
together to be more efficient. So, yeah,
and I do a lot of training
bringing teams together.
Lots of models on this and the
thing is, do they have clarity?
Do you have a consistent
tool they're using?
And do they have a consistent
expectation that they know that the
expectations then is to
drive things forward,
not just do the X number of
clients in front of me and then do
it again next, next year.
You know, I'm at this point,
just thinking of everything that goes
into time management and prioritization
and everything we've talked about.
And I feel like the
conversation can go on and on,
different strategies and
solutions. But, you know,
I do want to bring this conversation
to a close and I'm just thinking about
other challenges that I know
our listeners are facing.
And really just everybody
in the world at this point,
anybody who has had to adapt to
this hybrid workplace, right?
Whether it's working, fully remote
or back and forth, and you know,
that work life balance with your
personal lives right behind you during
So everything we've talked about so
far now add in that personal side
of things, you know,
what are the expectations that we
really should have and how do we,
what kind of solutions or best practices
are there for really balancing to make
sure that we stay productive
or utilizing our time wisely?
But we're not dismissing, you know,
some of the other priorities
that we have as well.
Look, in the olden days, I say in the
olden days, you used to go on a commute,
We used to go into Boston on the
train or New York or whichever city it
We'd have time to disconnect
between personal and work. Okay?
Now we are remote.
Now that has huge benefits and
I'll mentions some in a minute,
but the worst thing is
there is no commute.
There's you open the door and
there's the dog, there's the family.
Hi. And if you're like me, I've
got an 8 and a 10 year old,
they tend to come in, knock on
the door. If they have something,
they need something. And they're
working in a virtual classroom,
as one of my kids is this week.
They'll just open the door and come in.
You're like, ah, okay, so what
I talk about really a lot is,
building in a switch off.
And what that means is you
don't have the commute anymore,
30 minutes, hour commute. So you
have to build a fake commute.
And that is three things. That's the,
we're closing the closed list,
the closed off and the
rituals. You need three things.
So my recommendation is when
you're coming to an an end right,
I'm done is to write down five
things that you must do tomorrow.
That will go on your productivity
planner that I talked about earlier, the,
as your priorities, what's the
five things I must do tomorrow.
And there are five things.
It's a closed list because
once I've written that down,
that has to be done tomorrow. Okay.
So it gets you focused on what it really
helps you focus the mind on what the
priority is. If you get to
tomorrow and that close list,
something comes up as urgent. That's fine.
But you have to take one of the five
items off of your close list and put the
new one on. Okay. Don't increase
to 5, 6, 7, 8 list. That's burnout.
So five is a lot of things you need to
check. So it's called the close list.
I've written down this list, it's closed.
That's what I'm going to do tomorrow.
Fine. It helps close it in the mind.
The second thing is to close off
and the close off is to switch off
all the lights in your little, whether
you've got a closet is your office.
You know, you've converted a closet or
you're actually using guest bedroom.
You're lucky enough to have your own
office space like mine, is to go around,
right? Switch the lights off, turn
off the printer. If you've got one,
physically switch things off,
close down windows on your laptop.
I know this is crazy, right?
My wife and I, we've got very
used to it, working together.
Just leaving stuff up that we're
going to come back to. But no, no.
Now we close it all down. Close
everything down. Close that laptop.
Lid shut. Yeah. So you're getting
a thing. Everything's closed down,
put everything set up. Things
files away, filed away.
Okay, I'm ready. I've got what I
need for the first thing tomorrow.
I've got my closed list. I open
that door. I close that door.
My mind is now free.
Now the last of those three was
rituals and rituals either own
you or they work for you. So
rituals and routines, right?
We've all got our own little routine.
Our way we like to go set in place.
We go for a coffee. Are you a Dunkin
Donuts person, or you a Starbucks person,
whatever's in town because
now you're at home.
So there's a different set of you
don't have it around the street corner
anymore. You have to go
downtown for it. and it's
they can own you. They suck
up time routines like, oh,
I'm just going to go and do this that,
before you know it, half an hour's gone.
But what if you owned your routines
and they became rituals. So if you had,
you finished your work.
One of my recommendations is when
you go to virtual work is you put
on a shirt or something that you wouldn't
be wearing just to lounge around the
house. So there's so you can change that
shirt and put your Netflix clothes on.
Yeah. Or your Hulu clothes, whatever
is something a bit more comfortable,
more relaxing. But the mistake,
a lot of people is they get up,
they put on their just home
clothes and go and sit in front.
It doesn't feel different. And
even people who have got big meetings,
virtually tend to go and
put their shoes on. Again.
Don't walk around in your carpet slippers,
put your shoes on because it
gives you that feeling different.
Imagine that at the end of the
day, you're changing your clothes.
You would do that anyway. If
you came home from the office,
so I'm recreating these,
become rituals and a ritual is
something your routine you do regularly.
So going to the gym is not a ritual.
If you're only doing it once or twice a
week and you might not do it next week,
It's ritual because it's consistent and
walking the dog is a ritual. Do you,
when you finish your work,
what do you do? Well,
I'm going to walk the dog or I'm going
to walk around the neighborhood or I'm
going to go and talk to my better
half, partner in life, friend,
family, and make something specific.
Whatever that ritual is. Doesn't matter.
If something that's important to
you do it, but do it every time.
Yeah. And, and make time to read
something that you are interested in.
Preferably, a paper version, like
a book, a proper book. You know,
we heard of those. We use
Kindles now, we use electronics.
But what I'm trying to do is close
down the minds as quickly as possible.
So if there is something you can read
physically, or you printed out something,
you wanted to read a personal article,
spend five minutes, reading that, boom,
your mind's out of it. So
out into the next world, OK.
Equally in the morning,
you've got a startup routine that
I talked about earlier. You know,
the high performance planner is one I use,
you can use whichever one
you want to get you in,
but you need to get out as well.
So when you walk down the stairs,
you are not worrying about where am I
going to find all this money? You know,
these big projects that didn't go so well.
Because you had a switch off
routine. So that's a closed list.
Write a closed list. closed down,
physically close down the
electronics lights, tidy up your,
your work station area. And then a
ritual. Something like walking the dog,
getting your Netflix clothes.
You can play a bit of music.
It could be anything you want it to
be, but it has to be done every time.
And that's how you get in and out
really quickly from work to personal.
And then back again.
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perspectives of thought leaders from the
accounting and finance profession.
If you like what you heard,
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