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Learning from Elizabeth Warren's 200-Meetings Calendar

Elizabeth Warren
Call me a loser, but I find the appointment calendars of busy executives fascinating to read and tiring to contemplate.

Let's look at the calendar of Elizabeth Warren, who is in the process of forming the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She has made it public in the name of government transparency, and it's quite a thing to behold.

Take, for example, the fact that she had more that 200 appointments in five states in January -- in-person meetings, phoners, at dinner and lunch, on weekends and holidays, with regulators, elected representatives, university presidents, media and captains of industry.

I can't tell you if she is personally efficient or productive, but I can tell you the way her schedule is organized and presented sets her up for success. Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Short meetings are productive meetings. Warren's standard meeting is 30 minutes. Some are 15, some 45, others 60. But her 30-minute standard meeting block ensures that the participants will be focused on a single agenda item, with little time for derailing side trips.
  • Meet with decision makers. Warren only meets with people who can move the needle. On Jan. 21, she meets successively with Julius Genachowski, Chairman, FCC; Tim Massad, Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability, Office of Financial Stability; David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President; and Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary.
  • Prep for the big ones. On Jan. 11 at 1:30, Warren is meeting with Geithner. Earlier that day she's reserved 30 minutes to prepare for the meeting. Ditto, she preps for big meetings with Americans for Financial Reform; Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; and her many media interviews.
  • Calendar as visual tool. By the way items are characterized, you can get a quick overview of a day's activities and the personal energy needed. It may be a "Call." It may be a "Check-in." When something heavy is coming, it's "in-depth." Meeting participants are labeled with their titles and, of course, the location. Warren's calendar is a great tool for helping her prepare and get through the day, all at a glance.
Is your calendar just a collection of dates, times and names? If so, you may not be getting all the value out of of this tool as you should. Just ask Elizabeth Warren -- if you can get on her calendar.

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