Here’s a surefire, one-step way to sap your staff of two hours of productivity: 1) poorly schedule two hours worth of meetings!

Peopleware famously dissects productivity among thought workers and persuasively argues that environments conducive to developers getting into the “zone” and feeling the “flow” experience higher productivity than those that aren’t so hospitable. Task switching is considered harmful for those whose jobs require deep concentration, high creativity, and other pure thought stuff.

The meeting scenario in this picture may be mocked up, but it has happened to me in real life as I’m sure it happens in many organizations. It’s the quickest, simplest, easiest way to tack two extra hours onto the cost of those two hours of meetings.

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How?

Because, like DeMarco and Lister point out, it can easily take 15-30 minutes just to get into the zone!

When the first alert pops up, I’m usually distracted enough from my task at hand. I need to find out where the meeting room is, maybe grab a cup of coffee, and I’ll probably need to use the restroom. That’s 15 minutes gone.

In between meetings we’re catching up on email. And if it’s a slow email day, we’ll read Slashdot or CNN because it’s just not possible to get deeply into the zone in that short window… just to have another alert pop up in 15 minutes. That’s 30 minutes more down the tubes.

After Meeting #2, we’re again catching up on email or making lunch plans. I don’t care if it’s a slow email day AND you brown-bagged your lunch, you’re still not getting deeply into the zone for meaningful work in this 30 minute window. We’re down a full 75 minutes so far.

And after lunch? Too many of other things can distract us from work: more coffee, restroom, email, chitchat in the hallway, food coma, etc. It’s easily another 30 minutes here to even approach the zone, let alone get into it deeply enough before the next meeting alert pops up…

Poorly planned meetings, spaced out as illustrated, are a guaranteed productivity killer.