Look to Your Cereal Bowl for Ways to Improve Productivity

One of my favorite advertising slogans is “Snap, Crackle, Pop.” Talk about great design–it’s simple, catchy, has great rhythm vocally, and remains very evocative of the brand Rice Krispy after decades of use. More importantly, when I pour a bowl in the morning, I still hear those awesome sounds right on queue.

As I sat eating breakfast with my kids during the first week of school, I thought about my schedule for the day and realized it was a dreaded meeting day – meaning multiples stacked together back to back all day. Talk about dreary! Productivity will likely be low, and heaven only knows where my blood pressure might be at the end of the day.

Since then, I have researched to see what innovative management approaches, tools, even etiquette are being utilized these days. Many blog posts offer suggestions. Susan Adams with Forbes writes about “what’s new in business etiquette” while Michael Mankins declares “Yes, you can make meetings more productive” in the Harvard Business Review. Yet, collectively, there is little new material out there. My favorites are the pseudo-characters: Monopolizer, Cynic, Fence Sitter, Brown Noser, Joker, oh wait, that’s a real comic book character. The list is equally long for positive behaviors, they’re just harder to find: Organizer, Timekeeper, Listener, and really tough to find? The Thinker.

Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of visual reminders, posted signs, verbal requests–all designed to encourage focus during meetings. Yet, meetings most often remain a drain on resources, have a negative stigma, and are limited in productivity at best. What’s a professional to do? Continue to dread days that are filled with meetings? Should we adopt the tenets from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?” Based on how adults have faired over the years with “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader,” I’m afraid kindergarten might be a stretch, too!

The simple act of listening proves extremely difficult for most of us these days given the quantity of information and the variety of ways we receive it. Years ago I would spend my mornings reading the paper, my day focused on work, and my evenings watching the news; where as today I am constantly receiving news and messages. I first experienced the concept of twenty-four, seven, three hundred and sixty five days a year during my stint working with Kinko’s twenty years ago–now, that’s the standard for all types of communication. It even has its own shorthand now: 24/7/365. Is there really a way to improve productivity and efficiency in this environment?

Maybe we should keep it simple and focused, like the designers of the Rice Krispy ad campaign; imagine what each elf would say:

SNAP: “Come to attention, everyone. Let’s get started.”
CRACKLE: “Now, we’re cooking with gas. Keep those ideas flowing!”
POP: “Here’s the answer. We did it!”

Let’s start a trend where these three little elves guide how we approach meetings: SNAP, CRACKLE, and POP.