Mamie Kanfer Stewart wants you to never sit through a pointless meeting ever again. Mamie is the founder of Meeteor, a startup focused on improving collaboration and meeting culture. Mamie’s love of productivity led her to found this innovative company, and the idea was born out of a passion to help individuals and teams thrive at work and communicate more effectively.
Mamie’s entrepreneurial spirit was fostered in thanks to her father, Joe Kanfer, CEO of GOJO Industries, and the inventor of PURELLⓇ Hand Sanitizer. Mamie has honed in on improving her own productivity practices and business knowledge, which lets her bring an unusual combination of strategic thinking and personalized consulting to the table.
We were so excited to talk to Mamie and let her spill some of her tried and true productivity processes. Read on for her top tips, her favorite time-tracking method, and why she prefers to write her tasks down using old-school paper and pen.
So what is your podcast about?
My podcast is all about how to be a rockstar manager with a thriving team! It’s about what makes a great manager and how you can grow your own skill so that you become a really awesome person to work for and work with. The role of a manager is critical in the workplace, and we don’t spend enough time thinking about how we work with our colleagues and how we manage others. Many times, we think about what we do, but just not enough time on how we do it. So, this is really about developing ourselves into being a really awesome manager.
What do the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
Most days, I get up and go right to the gym. While I’m walking to the gym, I listen to NPR’s news podcast Up First to try to get a good sense of what’s going on in the world. Then, I can go work out all my stress.
Afterward, I shower and start my day at about 8 AM in the morning. Then, it’s a cup of coffee, usually some granola for breakfast, and checking email.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
My number one productivity tip is to be really thoughtful about your meetings. Not surprising, but as a meeting expert, this is the thing I think about, all day long. We do not frequently say “no” to meetings that we really shouldn’t be in or ask for more information about meetings and why it’s important to go to them.
It was such a transformational point in my own business when I stopped attending a lot of our meetings and asked my team to send me meeting notes instead. I got so much more of my life back, and I found I could really count on my team to do the work without me.
What have you become better at saying no to?
I guess I would say I’ve become better at saying no to meetings that I think I can weigh in on other ways. So for example, I was invited to a strategy session and it was a two-hour meeting and there was no way I was going to be able to commit two hours to it. So instead I scheduled half an hour with the meeting leader and I looked at all the pre-reading that he had sent and I gave him my rundown in 30 minutes. And then he was could then take that information and either represent my voice in the meeting or send out an email to the rest of the group saying, “Here are Mamie’s takeaways that I think are really important.” But instead of having to go to a two-hour meeting I only had to go to a half hour meeting.
Basically, saying no to meetings I don’t have time for where I think I can engage in a different way that is ultimately to achieve that same result.
When you lose focus, what do you do to regain it?
I use a ton of apps, I’m a real believer in technology. So when I lose focus whatever I’m doing, I pull out my notebook and I write things down. I find that putting it onto one sheet of paper, and putting down my tasks and priorities helps visualize my day. Seeing it on a piece of paper, somehow my brain functions differently than when I’m looking at my to-do list on Todoist. Somehow that feels really overwhelming, but when I put things onto a piece of paper it just really helps me get the clarity I need to move forward.
Any favorite tools?
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
One of the things I really struggle with is starting a project I’m nervous about. For example, I’m starting a podcast, and recording that first session was like very, very nervewracking. Even though I knew exactly what software to use and I had my whole script written out – everything was there.
The Pomodoro method has been really helpful for me to get over that stump. I’m like okay, I’m just going to do it for 25 minutes and if it sucks it sucks, so I’m just going to do it. Also, I have a beautiful glass timer that sits on my desk – having that little thing to kind of get me started on something that feels a little bit scary or ambitious has been very, very helpful.
What book has changed your life and why?
I absolutely love the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. It gave me a framework for things that I was already doing intuitively and has allowed me to expand the way that I talk about giving feedback and guidance, building relationships with colleagues. For people who are conflict avoidant, which I definitely have some of that tendency, it has really helped me reframe how I give feedback. Especially when there are sensitive pieces of feedback to give.
What is the most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
I love having an executive assistant. I have definitely found that even though it’s a little bit pricey, being able to offload tasks that can just fill up your day makes all the difference. I have two children, and between all of their life and my life and my work and everything, being able to hand over a lot of tasks to a trusted resource is a lifesaver.
Any other productivity secrets you’d like to share?
I’m also a really big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I have totally bought into the idea that your brain is for having ideas, not for holding ideas. I write down everything that I need to do, which is part of the reason why my to-do list online is very complicated. Getting everything out of my head has really freed up a lot of space for me to then be focused and get the most out of the time that I’m spending on my work.
Follow Mamie on Twitter.