A recent HBR survey estimates that American organizations spend 15% of their time in meetings. McKinsey reports that 28% is eaten up by email, and Salesforce suggests that admin tasks and reports comprise another 20%. Whether you’re a senior leader or a junior exec, your workdays most likely revolve around meetings, emails, and reports. With more than three-quarters of our workplace time devoured by those activities, where’s the time for work that actually matters?

As the author of a simplification book and CEO of innovation firm futurethink, I’ve interacted with thousands of employees who are frustrated by the time-sucks that get in the way of doing their job. Whether you’re seeking a starting point for simplification, solving an ongoing issue, or considering a new process or procedure, I’ve created a set of questions to keep you focused on simplicity.

If this exercise is being done as a group, break into pairs/teams and assign each a different simplification question.  

1. If a new CEO started here tomorrow, which process would s/he immediately observe as the biggest time-waster?

2. Which product or service drives the most enthusiasm, emotion, and purchases from our customers/clients?

3. For every new thing we add to our product pipeline, what can we eliminate? (Which tedious form? Meeting? Standing call?)

4. How can customers more easily do business with us?

5. If I could kill any workplace rule that holds me back from being more effective or productive, what would it be?

6. If significant training is required to learn X task/Y process, what could we modify so less training is required?

7. Can we create a template for X task/Y process so others can use it?

8. What is the most important activity for keeping customers happy and engaged?

9. If I divided my meetings into two columns—those that are worth my time and those for which an email update would suffice—what changes could I make right now?





Which of the above meetings could—and should—become an email today?

10. Which activities or tasks in my daily work add the least value for stakeholders (clients, partners, etc.), and how can I do LESS of these things?

11. Which activities or tasks in my daily work add the most value for stakeholders (clients, partners, etc.), and how can I do MORE of these things?

Implement any clear solutions that have immediate value—those are the quick wins that remove time-sucks and lift team morale. If impactful solutions emerge but further research is needed, assign deadlines and responsibility to teams/team members, and schedule a follow-up meeting before ending this session.

Conduct this exercise on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep staff aware of complexity, and consider rewarding individuals and teams who proactively bring attention to red tape and redundancies. By simplifying the sales process in your company, you’ll make it shockingly easy for your customers to get what they want with minimum hassle. For yourself and your teams, you’ll create a workplace with shockingly fewer meetings, less busywork—and far more meaning.

Lisa Bodell is the founder and CEO of innovation-training firm futurethink. A top-rated speaker at Google events, she is also the best-selling author of “Kill the Company,” which won the 2014 Axiom Best Business Book Award, and the forthcoming “Why Simple Wins.” Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.