Optimizing Information Retrieval Is Key to Saving Time

Learn how to find more time in your day by applying operational efficiency expert Nick Sonnenberg’s CPR® Framework.

Whether leading a complex project, juggling work and life tasks, or just trying to find time to relax, we all struggle with time management and Nick Sonnenberg is here to help. Sonnenberg, author of Come Up for Air: How Teams Can Leverage Systems and Tools to Stop Drowning in Work and recent speaker at PMXPO, has long been obsessed with saving time.

In college, Sonnenberg mapped out a course schedule that allowed him to graduate a year early but also left plenty of time for fun. Later, working as a high-frequency trader on Wall Street, he learned to appreciate the value of time by observing how shaving microseconds off an activity could be a small win. Now, Sonnenberg is applying these lessons and those learned from scaling up his own startup, Leverage, to help teams drowning in work to embrace operational efficiency.

Save Time With the CPR® Framework

The key to saving time, Sonnenberg says, “is to eliminate the scavenger hunt. You should be optimizing for the retrieval of information, not just transferring stuff. When you do your laundry, the fastest way to finish would be to take it out of the dryer and throw everything into one drawer. Yet we take the time to separate our socks in a drawer, underwear in another drawer, and we do that not because it’s the fastest way to be done, but because we know that tomorrow, if we need to put an outfit together, it’s much faster to retrieve what we’re looking for.”

Implementing the CPR® Framework (communication, planning and resources) can help teams large and small boost efficiency by focusing on these operational areas found in all organizations. “Each area is like a drawer in terms of the information that every team and every organization has, no matter their size or industry,” Sonnenberg says.

Align for Effective Communication

“There are many new tools and ways of working, yet no one’s ever been taught best practice,” Sonnenberg explains. “Tools like Slack and Teams or Asana — they’re collaborative and you only get value out of them if you have alignment across all the different users who are going to use them. There’s an extra layer of coordination that you need to have with those tools that adds complexity and friction.” Sonnenberg suggests these time-saving tips:

  1. Use email for external communications with clients, vendors and partners. All internal communication (with your team) should be moved out of email and contained in a virtual collaboration platform.
  2. Practice R.A.D. to get to inbox zero.
  3. Reply to emails requiring a response.

    Archive emails that have been dealt with, don’t require a response or are irrelevant.

    Defer emails that don’t require immediate attention by using the snooze feature, if available on your service.

  4. Use a video tool to share screenshots and screen recordings. Tools like Loom allow you to create a message for asynchronous communication, i.e., one that can be viewed by members of your team at a convenient time.
  5. Don’t avoid face-to-face conversations. Anytime there are more than a few back-and-forth messages, or a subject is sensitive or likely to cause an issue, jump on a video platform for more direct communication.

Know How to Differentiate Between Planning and Resources

When it comes to implementing CPR, Sonnenberg says, “Every organization has tasks and projects. And as it relates to project managers, you’re probably living a lot in this ‘P’ or planning drawer. A lot of people get confused, like when should they put something into P versus R? If we were going to go camping together as a team, you would need walkie talkies to communicate, but you’d also need a map to navigate. So, if you’re asking your colleague to submit a schedule by Friday, that’s something that you want to follow the progress on and hold them accountable for.

“The last part is for resources. That’s all about digitizing your knowledge, like what you would put into a company wiki — answers to the questions who, what, when, where and why. All of this is company knowledge that you want people to be able to self-serve and, if something changes, you have a central point of truth to change it. The key distinction,” he adds, “is that processes are repeatable whereas projects typically are not. So, projects should be stored in a work management tool, but repeatable processes should be documented and stored in a process management tool.”

Sonnenberg also stresses the need to build these tools into the team culture. “It’s really important that this is done when you onboard someone, because once they’re a month in and they’ve got projects, it’s hard for them to find time to do the training. You want to get them set up for success up front.”

To learn more ways to empower your future with Nick Sonnenberg and our other amazing speakers, check out our Virtual Experience Series.


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