Advice for producing in corporate environment?

My question is how have the veterans here managed to be productive and deliver despite all the meetings?

I’ve just started a demanding job as of 2 weeks ago. Just to give some background, I’ve interned at both consultancies and corporate environments. Although this is my first big gig, I’m eager to dive in and deliver through the honeymoon period. What I am immediately experiencing are all the daily meetings that require attendance, usually at least 2-3 hrs worth. I expect more of this as I get more dialed in.

I notice colleagues always bring their laptops in during the meetings to work through these meetings. I can’t really see myself doing Illustrator/Photoshop work while someone is presenting… By 3pm the majority of meetings have taken place but find my productivity takes some time to get back on track.

One thing I’ve just started is to make a to-do list at the very start of the day.

One tip I’ve read is that for the first hour or two when you come in, don’t check email. Just start working. Email is super distracting and eats up tons of times: you can do email during meetings :smiley:

Time management is critical, but I won’t lie that most of my productivity ends up happening after 5pm or on days that there are no meetings.

Also, it’s a skill that comes with experience to understand what meetings you need to be in. I know there are many meetings that I’ve gone to where 99% of the meeting is around non-related project issues so that attendance isn’t critical or even necessary many times, but often the meeting organizer won’t tell you that. So with experience comes knowing who to ask about the agenda, how to get meeting minutes sent over without being there, and how to make sure that you don’t slip things. That’s hard to do early on, and sometimes those meetings are just replaced with new meetings but thats the grind.

A to-do list is a must. Also I’ve gotten in the habit of making sure any emails in my inbox are either flagged as to-do, archived to a project folder, or deleted - no exceptions. When you need to look back for an email you sent 2 years ago, filtering through all the emails where people said “thanks” and having everything stuck in your inbox is a plague.

Funny I am reading this…Just looked at my calendar and I have meets ALL day today. 10-5!!

Cyber hit the nail on the head. It is critical that you learn what meetings you need to be in and which ones you don’t. I get invited to meetings all day. Some I accept, some I delegate, and some I just decline. Not only is going to every meeting going to eat up a lot of your time, but it will also get you overloaded with work that you may not need to be working on. I would talk to your boss about the ones you are unsure of and let him help guide you on the one you do not need to go to. We also have a corporate policy that you are not allowed to schedule meetings on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. Some people stick to that but not all.

Another trick I have found is that I always block off time on my calendar for me, and Fridays are my working get stuff done days. You have to realized that meetings are scheduled around availability and you feel that you need a good 4hrs one day to sketch, then you need to communicate that you are not available, and stick to that plan. This has been a huge help in my productivity.

As far as emails go… I wish I was as organized as Cyber. I am terrible at organizing emails. I do however answer them through out the day, but mostly get to them at the end of the day. I will mention that these are much like the meetings, pick and choose which ones you really need to respond to. Not all email require a long response and nothing is worse that a long corporate email chain. Sometimes the best way to answer an email is through a phone call or short chat at someone’s desk.

  1. select one meeting a week (or a day) to skip. When asked why you weren’t there, explain that you got swept away heads down working in the zone, and couldn’t pull away… and make that true.

  2. put the work first. You’re paid to be a designer. Be that. You should be trying to come up with a unique, non-assigned design solution per week. Post it on your wall, email it to your boss…

  3. dont wait for permission, take it. Many people spend much of their corporate time trying not to do the wrong thing, not realizing THAT is the wrong thing to do. The people that move up tend to be those who make opportunities for themselves, present self initiated design solutions that turn into programs, and just are themselves.

Great advice.

It took me a while to learn the lessons that were mentioned above. It will take some time, but once you figure out how everyone works and the roles of the meetings, you will know which ones you wont need to be present at.

One of the best things that I made a habit was to take 2 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to go over my to do list. At the end of the day I write down everything that needs to get done. I check that first thing in the morning and figure out my time management. When I get a new request I write it down. Its a nice cycle of reminding me of my workload everyday. It took a while to get in the habit, but now that its routine my day is much better organized.

Wow, thanks for all the super helpful tips. I’m getting a consistent underlying theme that it’ll take time to get into the rhythm. My approach is to just work my ass off (while working smart) and the rest will click into place.

There’s a steep learning curve but I understand that it just comes with the territory. Did you guys deal with a steep learning curve? If so, is it just tenacity and energy that carries you through it all?

It’s not a learning curve as much as it is just the nature of gaining real world experience.

Working in a multi-disciplinary environment you need to learn peoples personalities, corporate politics, how to manage yourself in a way that both you AND your boss think is appropriate, etc. If you think you’re doing the right thing but other people don’t that’s a big issue, and one that I learned the hard way when first starting.

A ton of work, especially in corporate is around optics. You might have worked an 80 hour week, but if someone walks in and sees you resting your eyes for a few minutes it can be rather bad on impressions. “Hey that new kid is napping on the job” I’ve learned it’s very easy to go from hero to zero because you really need to manage perceptions. It’s about doing good work, and making sure people around the company know that you’re doing good work without having to go up to your boss every 2 hours and say “look at what I did!”