Improving Team Productivity with Nathan Gilmore

“There’s a very big difference between being busy—getting little meaningless things done—versus making real progress toward your goals.”

How do you motivate your team and increase productivity? 

It starts with stepping back from the to-do list and looking at what you want to accomplish as an organization, as a team, and—yes—even as individuals with lives outside the office. 

In this episode of Time Limit, Brett and TeamGantt cofounder Nathan Gilmore talk about how to take a big-picture approach to productivity so you and your team can thrive in every aspect of life. Listen to their conversation to learn:

  • Simple strategies to increase productivity for yourself and you team
  • Why having a plan is an easy way to improve team productivity
  • The connection between goal-setting and team performance
  • How moving to a 4-day workweek impacted productivity at TeamGantt
  • How to recognize and handle productivity issues on your team
  • One thing that may be getting in the way of your team’s productivity

About our guest


Nathan Gilmore
Cofounder and Head of Product at TeamGantt

Nathan Gilmore is Cofounder and works on product design at TeamGantt, a leading online project management software used to plan, schedule, and manage projects with ease.

Prior to cofounding TeamGantt, Nathan worked as a developer at TD Ameritrade and Rosedale Roofing. It was in his role at Rosedale where Nathan partnered with John Correlli to build their own collaborative solution for scheduling projects online after coming up empty in their search.

Today, TeamGantt is a 100% self-funded company that’s helped more than 1 million users in over 120 countries plan their projects. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Nathan helps lead a small, customer-focused team with 20 specialists distributed across the U.S. who continue to grow the product.

When he’s not brainstorming new app ideas, Nathan fills his nights with family fun and hobbies like mountain biking, woodworking, and playing guitar at his local church.

Episode Transcript


Brett Harned:                                          Hey. Welcome to Time Limit. If you listened to the first episodes of this show, you know my guest. Nathan Gilmore is one the founders of TeamGantt, and subsequently my boss, and a good friend. It was fun recording with him a while back, and I had a topic idea for the show that I knew he'd love, and that's productivity. In this discussion, we talk about what productivity means to us, how we're managing our own productivity, and also some big moves that we made here at TeamGantt, and we happen to be showing some positive results in the productivity department, which is kind of cool.
                                                      There's even a new saying that came up in this discussion, there's weakness in numbers, but you never heard that one, but it's one that you'll likely remember. I know that I will. All right. I'm going to stop now, so you can dig into the discussion.
                                                      Hey Nathan, welcome back to Time Limit. How are you?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Hey, Brett. Doing good. Glad to be here.

Brett Harned:                                          Awesome. Thanks for joining me. How's it feel to be behind the podcasting mic again?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Especially, since I didn't bring the right mic it's a little different, but it's fun. This is exciting.

Brett Harned:                                          Cool. I wanted to say that, because I think folks that you and John Correlli started Time Limit, and I took over and kind of changed the format of the show at about I think episode five or six.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          And I was a part of some of those early, kind of conversational, episodes so it's good to have you back.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. We're glad that you've taken it to a whole new level than what we could've done, so very, very glad that you've done this, and done so well with it.

Brett Harned:                                          I'm happy to do it. I invited you on because I want to talk about productivity with you, because I've worked with you for a while now, more formally probably the past two and a half years, but probably five years total, or even more, and you have always struck me as a person who's really into productivity, meaning that it seems like you're tuned into how to optimize your workdays, get the most out of your day, and I want to get into some practices and decisions eventually in this conversation, but I'm curious is productivity something that you grew to like, and to hone, on your own as a professional, or is it something that you've just always been drawn to?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That's a good question. It's definitely something that I've had to work, and hone, over time for sure. I wouldn't say I'm a naturally super productive person. If I think back to high school, college, I did fine and everything, but it wasn't until I really got into working and more of career oriented that I wasn't super concerned about productivity as much as I was just accomplishing things, and I think in order to accomplish things, especially aggressively, you have to be productive.

Brett Harned:                                          Totally. Yeah, I'm with you. I think productivity wasn't a thing for me until I was under the gun to produce stuff, and get it out, and deadlines started piling up, and I was like I just need to figure out a process for how I can just get stuff done, and feel good about it, and feel like I've got some kind of process that I'm working behind.
                                                      What are the kinds of things that you do, or some practices you've tried that you feel like have boosted your own personal productivity?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That's a good question. I think going back to when we started TeamGantt, back in the early days there, it's always been about picking the right thing to work on, prioritizing, and knowing what it is, because you could be productive, you could be getting a lot done, but if you're doing the wrong thing it's a complete waste of time.
                                                      I really think it's been a matter of just planning, thinking ahead, stepping back, looking at the goal, what is it you want to accomplish, and backing into it from there. Planning what do I want to accomplish this year, this quarter, this month, this week, today, and knowing that you're identifying the most important thing to work on that day. I think more than anything if you know that one important thing you need to that day then that gives you the motivation to do it, because you're thinking I know that this thing here is going to matter, and it's not going to just matter today, but it's going to matter a year from now, or five years from now, and it's important, and I know that it's the most important thing I should be doing, and if I do this I'm going to accomplish my goal, and I'm going to move forward.
                                                      I think that's the most important thing, is just knowing that one important thing you need to get done that day.

Brett Harned:                                          Those words sound familiar. You're basically saying always have a plan.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That's right. Planning isn't optional. Always have a plan.

Brett Harned:                                          There you go. It's a mantra, for a good reason though. I agree with you. What's really cool in that statement is it's looking really big picture. I think with productivity we tend to focus on what can I get done today, or within the next three hours, but this idea that you have a bigger plan, and that things roll up to the bigger picture, helps you to make decisions, and be better in the moment. It makes tons of sense.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Absolutely. You don't want to be spinning wheels. You don't want to be just working, working, working, doing a ton of stuff, being in meetings, answering emails, doing all this stuff, and then at the end of the day, what did I get done? What happened? What did I actually do? Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        And so, there's a very big difference than being busy, getting little meaningless things done, versus making real progress towards your goals.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. I'm curious, so I assume that you have a to-do list.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brett Harned:                                          Do you keep some level of a to-do list? What's the format? How do you do that?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah, sure. So definitely, obviously, I use TeamGantt, so just like we do. You know how things work internally here where we basically every quarter do our quarterly planning. First, we start with the goals, what is it we want to accomplish this quarter, and we have multiple teams in the company, and we go through and we look at this is what we want to accomplish this quarter with this team, and then okay, how are we going to do that? And we plan out our projects.
                                                      We'll plan out in detail anywhere from one to three months. We may not plan out the full quarter in detail depending on the work that's being done, but we'll plan out at least a month in detail so we know where we're going, and then we can just simply wake up that day, the next day, log into Team Gantt, click on the button for yourself there to see exactly what you need to do that day, or that week, and it's right there. You don't even have to think. You've already planned it out.

Brett Harned:                                          I love the idea of being able to go back to a plan. So many people just don't recognize the fact that ... I don't know if it's that plans seem like they're too formal, or whatever it is, but they can help you on all of the levels that you just mentioned, big picture planning, quarterly planning, weekly planning, monthly planning, daily planning, really is what it comes down to.
                                                      Team Gantt is my solution aside from having a little field notes notebook, and a pen next to my desk, that I'm always writing in, but the important stuff always makes it back to the plan.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah, absolutely.

Brett Harned:                                          Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I was going to say, there's nothing like having some pencil and paper nearby.

Brett Harned:                                          It's true.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        For me, now, I really don't use pencil and paper. I've switched over to the iPad, and I use GoodNotes on an iPad, but I always have an Apple Pencil, I'm holding it right now, and that's where I can scratch down little things during the day that come up, things I need to do in meetings, and then I mark little boxes next to each thing of this is an action item I need to do, and then if it's an action item that needs to go in the project later that's what I do. I just put it right into Team Gantt, and then I can schedule, because maybe it's something that needs to be done tomorrow, maybe it's something that needs to be done today, or maybe it's something that needs to be done next month, but that way we can track it.

Brett Harned:                                          Right. It's funny, I've also got the iPad with the Apple Pencil in front of me, and I always go back to the paper.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Do you?

Brett Harned:                                          I need to train myself. I find that when I try something new to help me with productivity I have to train myself to do that thing, or use that thing, because otherwise I just fall back to my defacto, which is essentially a notebook, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but the iPad is pretty cool, and the pencil.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. It is. It is cool. It definitely takes a while to form that new habit. That usually takes three weeks or so to form a new habit. It's like if you like the paper, use the paper, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        It's kind of the same thing. I would find that I would run out of paper in the notebook, have to buy a new notebook, but now I can organize things. I have probably six or seven notebooks in my iPad now. You know?

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        And I don't have to carry around six or seven different notebooks, but I have one for marketing, I have one for product, I have one for general business stuff, I have one for personal things, and I've just got all these different notebooks I can just flip between very easily.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah, that's cool.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That convenience just made it worth it for me.

Brett Harned:                                          Absolutely. You mentioned a little bit earlier about managing the company and managing team, which is a big part of what you're doing at Team Gantt, and I'm wondering, are there any kind of guiding values that you use to help you manage the company, and manage a team, but also keep your finger on the pulse of what the company is doing productivity-wise, or even what individuals are doing in their jobs?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah, absolutely. So again, that would go back to setting up the goals, and we make sure we write the goals down every quarter. The high level principle is I want to make sure everybody knows where we're going, what is it we're trying to achieve, what is the goal as a company we're trying to achieve, and on the team that they're trying to achieve, and individually that they're trying to achieve, and what is that north star, what are they going towards.
                                                      We got to make sure we have that set, so that's what we always check on quarterly, and then after that we go in, and we go into the detail, and we create the plans. Once we have the plans all set, everyone's creates Gantt charts in Team Gantt, everybody assigns tasks to everybody, we look at the workloads, we make sure is anybody overbooked, underbooked, do we need to add more work, take more work away, what's realistic. If it's too much we pull some things out for the quarter. We say, "You know what? That's going to have to wait till next quarter."
                                                      And them, after that, we meet every week. I'll meet with each team. I meet with each team inside of marketing, and work on design projects, and everything, product design and everything, and I'll meet with anybody in those areas, and we've got three separate small marketing teams right now, and we'll just meet with each one, and every week, the first thing we've been doing, especially recently, is we look at the goal. That's the first thing, because I found in the past if we don't look at the goal every week, we forget what the goal is, and that's so easy to do.
                                                      You set the goal at the beginning of the quarter, and then by the end of the quarter it's like, "Wait, what was that goal? Did we hit it?" We got so busy just doing busy work, so now we actually look at the goals every single week in the meetings, and we say, "Okay, cool. Where we at?" We've got little charts we just pull up, and we can just quickly see how are we tracking, how's the work going, and we look and we see.
                                                      Team Gantt's really easy to see if you're ahead of schedule, or behind schedule, for each person, and each team. We can look at that, and we see if anything's running behind, if there's any holdups, and we just go from there, and we can just keep a nice pulse on both the goal, and the actual progress of the project that's supposed to hit that goal.

Brett Harned:                                          I like that approach, and I'm one of the people in those meetings looking at goals, and I think what I'm finding with that approach ... First of all, it's always good to have a goal, for your project, for your quarter, for whatever you're planning, but the idea of keeping the goals at the forefront of the discussion about what you're doing it contributes to positive productivity. I'm finding that when I think about that goal, or if I'm entering data to input against the goal to see where we are with it, it makes me think through things that I could be doing better, or optimizing workflows to make things a little bit easier.
                                                      Are you finding the same thing, just thinking about the goal brings up different ideas, or ways of working?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Oh my goodness, absolutely. The goal is what steers everything. You know?

Brett Harned:                                          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Just with this podcast for example. If it was like, all right, I just need to put a podcast out every week versus the goal is to get this many people to listen to the podcast it's two totally different things, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right. Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        And you start thinking about, "Okay, well, I don't need to just put it out, but how do I need to get people to listen to it." Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Gilmore:                                        And it's the same thing with our product. We have goals around that, and getting people to use it and everything, and that makes you think, "Okay, what do we need to do here?" The goal, it's the very top, and then it just funnels down, and it helps you think about strategically, "All right, now what should we do to hit that goal?"

Brett Harned:                                          I want to talk about a topic that I think is really interesting, and it's pretty unique to Team Gantt as a company, so over the past year at Team Gantt we went from working on Fridays to then transitioning into doing half days on Fridays, and then to basically embracing a full four day weekend ... A four day work week. Sorry.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Maybe that's next year.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah, right? I'm planting seeds. So, this idea that we're working four days, Fridays are off.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right.

Brett Harned:                                          I want to dig in if you're comfortable with it, dig in on the decisions there, because we've had conversations about productivity surrounding that decision that I think are really interesting.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          So first, to start it off, what made you decide to start with the half days?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        We didn't want to work Friday afternoons. It was one of those things, and I'm curious if you've felt this way in the past, Brett. You work all week. Honestly, by Friday you're getting a little tired, and by Friday afternoon you feel like you're just pushing through just to see 5:00 come around. You know?

Brett Harned:                                          Right. Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I feel like it's the most unproductive four hours of the week is Friday afternoon.

Brett Harned:                                          I agree.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        You're tired. You're thinking about the weekend. You've already done a bunch of stuff. Now, you're just waiting out the clock, and you're doing some stuff, but I don't know, it's just watching the clock.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. I think by the end of the week you're at that point where you want to look back at that to-do list and see, "Okay, what are the things that can wait until next week?"

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          If I can just make the rest of this day a little bit easier.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          Even worse, is when people schedule a meeting late in the afternoon on Friday.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yah.

Brett Harned:                                          That's probably the most unproductive meeting you're going to get.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right, because everyone's like, "Come on."

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        You still work through the afternoon-

Brett Harned:                                          Of course.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        ... but it's like you don't really want to.

Brett Harned:                                          It's not at the same pace and fervor.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Exactly.

Brett Harned:                                          It's like you're working to get the day done.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Exactly. Monday, you wake up, you're ready to go. By Friday afternoon, you're thinking about the weekend. Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right, exactly.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I think that sparked it a little bit, if I'm honest, just me and John talking about it, "What if we did this as just a nice fun thing to do?" We did over the summer a couple years ago. We thought let's just do this through the summer. Half days Fridays is just a nice perk. We'll try it for the whole company. We'll see what happens with productivity. We'll see what happens with morale. We'll just see how it goes.
                                                      It was a big success. We all enjoyed it. We found we were able to do fun things on Friday afternoons. We didn't see any significant drop in productivity, or goals, or metrics, or anything. So then, in September we went back to the full day Fridays, and we were doing that and then Christmas time came around, it was Thanksgiving, and we said, "Well, what if we do it between Thanksgiving and Christmas?", and we take the half day away.
                                                      We did it again, and we were like, "This is great," and then we were, "Well, what if we just keep it?" So then, it just stuck after that. We gave it a couple trial runs, watched everything, and kept an eye on it, and it felt good. We can continue to talk about it, but that, and even the full day decision I think have been very good things for a number of reasons.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. The full day decision felt like, all right, when coronavirus really hit everybody was really impacted, and I think we just started taking Fridays off. Maybe not for that reason, but that decision I remember as an employee I was like, "Wow. Okay. This is really awesome. This is great to have a day off." At the same time, just me being me, I thought, "Oh, man. I've got to cram five days of work into four days."

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          If I'm honest, it wasn't that hard. Obviously, I can't speak on behalf of the entire company, but I think the drive to have that day off it just makes you work harder to get the things done, because you know that it's such a great benefit that you don't want to lose it. You know?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yep.

Brett Harned:                                          It's like this idea with probably the whole team is if I start to slack, and things aren't getting done, then these Fridays are probably going to go away, because it's obvious that things aren't working. Right?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          If you can't prove that you can be productive in that time then you don't really deserve to have that time off. I don't know if you feel that way, but it's been cool that decision has stuck, and I've talked to a few people on the team about it, and we all feel like our productivity levels are higher because we know that we have that one less day, and our days are more structured now intentionally, to really get the work done.
                                                      And personally, having that structure in way day is something I've always tried to do, even though it's really difficult to do as a project manager, but now as somebody who's just producing it's a little bit easier for me to do that.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I agree 100%. I was a little nervous going into it. I was like, "What's this going to be like?" I would agree completely with everything you said. It's just you do work harder those four days, and you have the energy to do it, because the end isn't in sight so much, because you just got to make it until the end of the day Thursday, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I got a new excitement for work from it. If I'm honest, I was probably having a little bit of burnout creeping in, especially with 2020 being what it was, and everything, and I think everybody on the team was. I was just really getting a sense of morale ... Everything was still going well here at Team Gantt, but just morale seemed to be down a little bit. Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. There's no way around that with what's happening in the world. Right?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right. Right, exactly. When we had that now we have three whole days off in a row. We can work four really good solid days, and we set up those four days for success, meaning we don't have a ton of meetings, a bunch of interruptions. We can get four really good days of quality work in. That's 32 hours. That's a lot of time. That's a lot of time to do something meaningful, and to make some movement, and real accomplishments that week.
                                                      I think on the personal side, there's huge benefits to that. I would say it's life changing in a way. I don't know if you would agree with that. Because you have Saturdays, especially if you have a family. You've got soccer games. You've got kids' birthday parties. You've got things that come up. Saturday's already a busy day. Sunday is church, and other family things. They can be a busy day. You don't really have that down day. Now that we've got the Fridays off there's somewhat more of a down day.
                                                      I still end up filling it up with things, but we've been able to do some really cool things, family-related, or personal productivity around the house, or something on Fridays that just changes things, and it's changed personal life for the better, as well professional life.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. I would absolutely agree with that. I think for me at this point Friday has become a day where I can focus on things that I want to do.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yes.

Brett Harned:                                          Whether that's health-related, working out, hiking, running, that kind of stuff, working on little side, fun, creative projects whether it's something in my home, something online, something with a friend. It just opens up a lot of opportunities that I think allow you to have a little bit more space in your head. You make room for things that are not work, which I think is really healthy, and important, and I agree with you, it's hard to do that otherwise when you are over-committed with things working full-time every day of the week.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right.

Brett Harned:                                          I agree. I think that extra day gives you just a little bit of wiggle room in life to focus in different areas. It's good for mental health.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        It's that breather that you need.

Brett Harned:                                          Yep.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Especially when you're in it for the long-term, like we are with Team Gantt. It's a long-term thing. We've already been at it for 10 years, and I think to sustain something for a long time it's a big help. I'm not saying this is necessarily for every company, but it depends on what your overall mindset and goal for your company is I think.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        It's like if you are trying to be a tech startup that wants to go out, and raise a ton of capital, hire 100 people this year, and try and win all this market share, and go nuts, and get some crazy valuation you might have to put five, or six days in, 70, 80 hours a week. Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        We're not going to do that.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. It's not for everyone. Yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        There's actually a really cool story that I was going to see if you mind if I read this. It's pretty short, but I feel like it sums up-

Brett Harned:                                          Okay, yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        ... our thinking about this really, really well.

Brett Harned:                                          Cool. Yeah, let's hear it.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        This is something that I found. Brett, you know I talk about this company a lot. It's called Ugmonk. U-G-M-O-N-K, Ugmonk, and it's really run by this guy Jeff Sheldon who's a great designer, makes all kinds of cool clothes, and desk organization, and backpacks, and just all kinds of really neat things, but he's small.
                                                      He's kept his company small. He's been very, very successful, and on his about page he shared this story, which I thought was really cool, and it just really resonated with me, so it says here, and this is short, but ...
                                                      Once upon a time, a fisherman taught a banker a lesson that would change his life. The banker was vacationing in a small coastal village when a fisherman docked beside him with several beautiful large fin tuna in a small boat. The banker complicated the fisherman on his catch, and asked how long it took. "Just a little while," replied the fisherman. The banker then asked why the fisherman didn't stay out longer and catch more fish. As the fisherman unloaded the tuna one-by-one he replied, "Because I have enough to support my family, plus I enjoy sleeping late, playing with my children, taking an afternoon nap with my wife, and strolling into the village in the evenings to sip wine, and play guitar with my friends."
                                                      The banker who was extremely well-educated with an Ivy League education scoffed and gave the fisherman in business, "Spend more time fishing. With the proceeds but a bigger boat, and with those proceeds but several boats. Eventually, you will have a fleet of fishing boats, and you can move to a big city like LA, or New York City, to run your growing business."
                                                      "But then what?" Asked the fisherman. The banker chuckled condescendingly and said, "Then you could eventually announce an IPO, sell your company's stock, and become a millionaire." "But the what?" The fisherman asked again. The banker responded, "Then you can retire, move to a small coastal village, and enjoy sleeping late, playing with your children, taking an afternoon nap with your wife, and strolling into the village in the evenings to sip wine and play guitar with your friends." The fisherman smiled at the banker, through the tuna over his shoulder, and then carried his catch into town.
                                                      I thought that was pretty cool. Sometimes people think about just working, working, working at all costs, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        To have monster success now, and then 30, 40 years down the road you can enjoy these other things in life. Now, don't get me wrong, we don't sleep in. We don't take naps all day, but we work eight hours, four days a week, and it gives balance. I think that there's something where you got to work not just at your work productivity, but your overall life productivity, or overall life goals, and it's all got to be worked together.
                                                      If you accomplish this, and you end up doing some big IPO, but you haven't had a good relationship with your spouse, or your kids, or you haven't had time to work out and to exercise, then what? So what if you have all this money at the end of the day, but your life is a mess, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. I think you're right. I think there's something to that. It's like productivity isn't all just about trying to squeeze the most amount of work in the littlest amount of time, right?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right.

Brett Harned:                                          On some level, it is about paying attention to yourself as a human being, and making space, and time to give yourself some breathing room, because you can be more productive when you build a space to focus and be productive, and sometimes it's hard to do that when you're worked really hard, but like you said it's not all in the four-day work week. We're not saying that's the bulletproof solution.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          It's certainly not for everyone, but I wanted to talk about it just because I do think it's an option that particularly smaller businesses might think about doing, or even just the half days, or even other solutions like that. You're not tied into working 9:00 to 5:00, and 8:00 to 6:00, or whatever your hours are every day of the week.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        For a lot of people getting down to working just 9:00 to 5:00 is a major obstacle, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah, right. That's so true.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That could be life-changing for someone to work 9:00 to 5:00, or to work remotely now, which so many people do. Some people are cutting two hours of car time off their day each day, which is huge.

Brett Harned:                                          They are, and I bet a lot of those people are still having a hard time finding balance. When you suddenly move your office home, and there are other people in your home doing the same thing, productivity kind of goes out the window, so I'm sure that people are coming up with new productivity hacks left and right, all being forced, being at home now, which is interesting.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Sorry, go ahead.

Brett Harned:                                          Go ahead. I'm sorry. No, no. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I was just going to say I think you're right in that the four-day work week isn't the secret to success. I think, to me, when it comes to productivity I think you have a couple levers you can pull, and I think you can get really good at prioritizing, which is important. I think that's very, very important. And then, you can get really good at the quality of your work, so to me it's like if you can get the right priorities, and you get the quality, very, very good, then the time that you put in becomes more optional. You know what I mean?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        If you really have your priorities right, and you really have your quality good, and you're winning in those areas, then at that point you can reduce the amount of time that you have to put into work, and it allows you at that point to put more time into other things in life, your family, projects around the house, charitable work, church work, different things. It opens up these doors for these other things that you can still be productive, and still accomplish, but in different areas of life, and then you get these benefits that ... Basically, I think there's benefits when you go down to the four-day work week that helps to long-term success of a company, whether that's retention, because a lot of people want to stay at a company that's going to only have them work four days a week.
                                                      It can be helpful in acquiring new hires, and you can say, "Hey, we're four days a week, or you can go work for this person that wants you to work 60 hours a week." It's a big thing there. You're going to have a happier team. You're going to have a team that's not as burnt out, and when you have a team that's not as burnt out, and you don't have constant turnover, then that actually helps with quality, because you have people that have been there longer, that are excited, that are motivated, and it's almost a circle where now you've got that quality going good, which feeds back in, and you're able to continue with the four-day work week.

Brett Harned:                                          I agree. I also think that productivity levels tend to go up, because you're working within those new constraints, and you're excited about those constraints, right?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          They're not bad constraints at all.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        No.

Brett Harned:                                          And when issues do pop up on projects, or between people, you look at those things through a different lens, the lens being things could always be a lot worse, and by the way, we're working four-day work weeks. I think that plays into that retention point that you made. Your bar becomes a little bit higher for what stressed you out, because there's less stress in your life, right?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That's right.

Brett Harned:                                          It all comes full circle to me.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. Go ahead.

Brett Harned:                                          I wanted to talk about productivity one level deeper, getting back to you as a manager. I think one of the things about productivity is that it's often almost looked at in a positive way, like "Hey, we're productive," but through a negative lens in that if there's issues with somebody it's probably related to their productivity. They can't get this thing done, "The productivity is low. We have to sort things out."
                                                      This is just stuff that I've heard in my career as a project manager.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yep.

Brett Harned:                                          As a manager, handling productivity issues with individuals can be difficult just based on personalities, or relationships that you hold. We talked about goals, but I'm wondering if for you as a manager are there any indicators you look for that help you to guide someone to better practices, or maybe to have a conversation about productivity, and help them. Are there any flags that people should look out for?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. I think so. That's again where our process with how we work each week is, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Gilmore:                                        We've got Team Gantt set up, and we can see in our projects what everybody should get done that week, because it was all planned out, that person agreed to it, that person thought it was a good amount of time. They might've even set that timeframe themselves of how much they think they can get done then, and then we can check in every week, and there's actually even easy ways to just look at a calendar for each person, and see how they're doing progress-wise, or you can filter it down in Gantt chart, and just see how's this person doing on their projects.
                                                      You can spot it. You can just see they've been running behind a lot, or you can use baselines. You can set a baseline, and then maybe a month later see how much those tasks got shifted, and then at that point if it's a trend for a while then it's worth the conversation. It's not something where you want to attack somebody.

Brett Harned:                                          Of course not.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I know you've had to have these kinds of conversations with people before, but it might just be, "We had some timelines set it looks like for the last month, or two months, and you haven't been hitting those timelines. What's going on?" And they may say, "I've got this crazy thing going on in my personal life I haven't told you about," or they may say, "You know what? I actually didn't feel like I had enough accountability," and we've had people tell us that before. "I just didn't have enough accountability, so I didn't feel the pressure to get stuff done."
                                                      And so, it's like maybe there's something I need to do to help, and that kind of thing can happen. It just could be all kinds of answers, and you just find out from them, what is it? Maybe you didn't assign them enough work. It may be they're getting hit from too many angles. They're saying, "I had this scheduled, but then I had three other people hit me up this week because they needed this done," and then you go, "Okay, maybe we need to fix that issue. You shouldn't be getting interrupted so much."
                                                      It could be all kinds of things, but it's just a matter of getting down to the root of the problem, and then fixing it. That's even a big change we made recently was our team structures, and everything, to help with that, so absolutely.

Brett Harned:                                          I like your response because I think typically what I would hear from someone who's a manager would be, "Yes, we're looking at data," which is a good thing to do, always.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          But then, it might go down the path of, "We're comparing them to what other people are doing on their projects," or counterpart, which is never right, because even when you look at task estimates, and work performed, it's all very personal, and we tend to forget about that, that there's so much impacting what someone does in a day, not only their own productivity routines, but what's happening outside of their work life, what's happening in their personal life, so it's good for people to remember it's great to use a plan, but it's also good to have conversations about those things to get to the heart of really what's going on, so I appreciate that.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          All right, last question here. We always make it quick, and it's always about time limits. Productivity, ostensibly, is all about saving time, so what are the things that you think, or maybe you recommend folks do, in order to raise productivity level without adding overhead, or adding time to do things.
                                                      I'll talk to people about to-do lists, and they'll say, "That just feels like such a waste of my time. There's got to be a better way to do it." I don't know if you feel that way, or if you have any thoughts on things that people can do to raise productivity levels.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah, a lot, but I know you said you want this to be quick, so I think when I hear about overhead, and wasted time, I think about meetings, and a lot of people being involved in something. There's a saying that I've been saying lately that my wife came up with recently, which is, "There's weakness in numbers." I think it's pretty true. There's weakness in numbers, because you get a lot of people together, all of a sudden now you can't move fast anymore. You've got to have all these meetings.
                                                      You've got to keep everybody in the loop. You don't know who's covering what, or who's doing what. It just gets messy, so I think one thing that I think ... The reason I'm talking about it is because we've done this recently inside Team Gantt is breaking teams up to be as small as possible, and maybe two or three people on a team. And then, when you have that, if you have the small teams, and those teams have freedom to work in ways they think is going to be best, and they have the goals, and the plans, and everything's set up, then they know what they need to do each day, they can do it, and they don't have to be ... Wasted time, oh my goodness.
                                                      Think about how many people have six meetings day, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        That's wasted time. It's wasted time.

Brett Harned:                                          Oh my gosh, especially people that don't need to be in it. Yeah.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. People that don't need to be in it. That's such valuable wasted time. If we introduce a new meeting we try to get rid of one meeting, if it's a regular weekly recurring thing. It's just really try hard to keep meetings down to a minimum, only people that really have to be in those meetings, and make sure everybody knows what they need to do.

Brett Harned:                                          Awesome. I agree with you. Nobody loves meetings. Let's be honest.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        I know, right?

Brett Harned:                                          I was at that PM summit last week. I have to say this, at the PM summit, and presenters are presenting over Zoom, and attendees are chatting in the chat in Zoom, and somebody starts talking about meetings, and one of the PMs in the audience said, "I miss meetings," and I thought, "Wow. You're like the only one." You know?

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah.

Brett Harned:                                          Not many people really love meetings. I like a meeting when something gets accomplished, but if there's ever an escape route from a meeting that I don't feel like I need to be in I'm taking it.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah. Yeah, seriously.

Brett Harned:                                          Because you can be more productive, and that's what this is all about. That's why you said it. Meetings can be a waste of time, and if you want people to be productive then don't invite them to the meetings that they don't need to be in, or meetings that could've been an email

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Yeah, and it's a false sense of productivity for a lot of people.

Brett Harned:                                          Absolutely.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        The person that called the meeting, like "Good. I had this meeting. We had the meeting." In reality, you just wasted eight people's time, right?

Brett Harned:                                          Right. Right.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Think about all the things that could've been done by those eight people. It's like you can have a bunch of meetings, but you'll probably definitely have to work Fridays, and probably late evenings, and over the weekend, and it's just not healthy. I think it comes down to if you do everything right, I think planning isn't optional, but I think Fridays are optional.

Brett Harned:                                          I like this. I think that was a mic drop. Thank you so much for making the time to do this with me. It's been a while since I've seen you in person, but it's good to get a little time to talk one-on-one, so thanks for joining me again on Time Limit.

Nathan Gilmore:                                        Brett, it was a lot of fun. Thank you.

Brett Harned:                                          All right, there you have it. What do you think? Is there weakness in numbers? Do you want to start the four-day work week? Maybe give it a shot. Trust me, it rules. Also, what are your productivity wins? Share them with me. You can reach out to me directly at Brett@TeamGantt.com, or even on social media. We're @TeamGantt on Twitter. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and we're TeamGanttOfficial on Instagram. Hope that we can connect there, if not, I'll see you on the next episode. Thanks.

More episodes


Creating an Inclusive Workplace Culture with Yvette Pegues
Creative Design & Project Management with Greg Storey
Agency Operations & Project Management with Rob Harr
How to Grow and Lead a Business Successfully with Chris Dreyer